Heart failure (HF) is the number one cause of hospitalization among persons aged 65 years or older;yet our medical system has been slow to develop strategies to optimize the care of older patients with HF. The traditional disease-oriented model, which underlies most HF research and clinical care, focuses on individual diseases. This model fails to consider the broad spectrum of comorbidity, which includes impairments (in physical capacity, cognition, vision, hearing and psychological status) that often burden older patients with HF. These impairments may impede the ability of older patients to manage their illness, yet comorbid impairments remain largely invisible within the HF literature and quality indicators. Over the course of this 5-year award, Dr. Chaudhry will conduct two projects to enhance the scientific knowledge base about how comorbid impairments and diseases affect the functional outcomes of older patients with HF. In the first project, she will analyze data from the Cardiovascular Health Study (which now has over 10 years of follow-up) to compare the long-term functional outcomes of older persons with and without HF, and determine the relative contributions of comorbid impairments and diseases to the onset of functional disability. In the second project, she will conduct a prospective study to characterize the burden of comorbid impairments and diseases in older patients at the time of HF hospitalization and evaluate the relationship of these comorbidities to functional decline after hospital discharge. To enhance her career development, Dr. Chaudhry will complete formal coursework in chronic disease epidemiology, longitudinal data analysis, and data management. These activities, combined with the guidance of mentors from the Yale Program on Aging/Pepper Center and Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, will enable Dr. Chaudhry to establish an independent research program to improve the care of older patients with HF.
Despite the billions of dollars spent each year caring for older patients with HF, outcomes have not improved in this population over the past decade. The results of the proposed research have the potential to fundamentally change our understanding of HF from an isolated disease to a true cardiogeriatric syndrome. Ultimately, these results will help to guide the development of more "gerocentric" HF care based on routine management of comorbid impairments, and to inform the next generation of HF quality indicators.
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