Public Release: 

Chronic illnesses, functional limitations a risk in older adults with heart failure

Having multiple chronic illnesses plus functional limitations increases risk of death among older adults with heart failure

American Geriatrics Society

Heart failure affects more than 6 million people in the U.S.--most of whom are older adults. Roughly half the older adults who have heart failure also live with five or more other chronic health conditions. This group of people may have difficulty performing daily activities, such as walking, bathing, and eating. And older adults who have multiple chronic illnesses plus heart failure generally require more frequent health care, including more visits to healthcare providers and hospitalizations.

Recently, researchers examined the impact of having multiple chronic conditions and having difficulty with daily activities on the health of older adults with heart failure. Until now, there's been no research on the combined effects of having all three problems for older adults. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers sent questionnaires to 6,346 older adults who had been diagnosed with heart failure; 2,692 participants returned the questionnaires and were included in the study.

Of the people with heart failure included in the study:

    - 25 percent had no other chronic illnesses or trouble performing daily activities.

    - 35 percent had other chronic illnesses.

    - 9 percent had trouble performing daily activities.

    - 31 percent had other chronic illnesses and trouble performing daily activities.

The most common non-heart-disease-related chronic conditions the participants reported were diabetes (45 percent), arthritis (40 percent), and cancer (31 percent).

The daily activities that the participants reported having the most difficulty performing/completing were using transportation (37 percent), preparing meals (28 percent), and bathing (23 percent).

The researchers discovered that the participants who had other chronic conditions plus trouble performing their daily activities had the highest risk for death, hospitalizations, and visits to healthcare providers and emergency rooms. They also learned that participants who had either other chronic conditions or problems performing their daily activities had a similar risk for hospitalization or emergency room visits.

The researchers concluded that, when healthcare providers care for people with heart failure, they should also consider the person's chronic illnesses and problems with daily activities. The researchers also said that having difficulty performing daily activities could lead to serious consequences for heart failure patients.


This summary is from "Multimorbidity and Functional Limitation in Patients with Heart Failure: A Prospective Community Study"). It appears online ahead of print in the February 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are Sheila M. Manemann, MPH; Alanna M. Chamberlain, PhD; Véronique L. Roger, MD, MPH; Cynthia Boyd, MD; Andrea Cheville, MD; Shannon M. Dunlay, MD, MS; Susan A. Weston, MS; Ruoxiang Jiang, BS; and Lila J. Finney Rutten, PhD.

About the Health in Aging Foundation

This research summary was developed as a public education tool by the Health in Aging Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public. We are committed to ensuring that people are empowered to advocate for high-quality care by providing them with trustworthy information and reliable resources. Last year, we reached nearly 1 million people with our resources through We also help nurture current and future geriatrics leaders by supporting opportunities to attend educational events and increase exposure to principles of excellence on caring for older adults. For more information or to support the Foundation's work, visit

About the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Included in more than 9,000 library collections around the world, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) highlights emerging insights on principles of aging, approaches to older patients, geriatric syndromes, geriatric psychiatry, and geriatric diseases and disorders. First published in 1953, JAGS is now one of the oldest and most impactful publications on gerontology and geriatrics, according to ISI Journal Citation Reports®. Visit for more details.

About the American Geriatrics Society

Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has--for 75 years--worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Its nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit

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