Having Multiple Chronic Illnesses Plus Functional Limitations Increases Risk of Death among Older Adults with Heart Failure

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

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. Continue reading

For Older Adults with Multiple Chronic Conditions, Using Non-Drug Behavioral Treatments for Symptoms May Be Helpful

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

When we have several chronic health conditions as we age, the symptoms we experience can reduce our quality of life. In fact, having multiple chronic conditions is linked to symptoms that can restrict our ability to perform our daily routines. Some 70 percent of adults over the age of 75 have more than two chronic health conditions. Nearly 55 percent of Medicare recipients who have had a stroke or heart failure have five or more chronic conditions.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers note that little is known about treating symptoms of multiple illnesses because people with two or more conditions are usually excluded from studies for specific diseases.

The researchers examined the results of a study that was originally designed to test how well people did after they stopped taking statin medication used to lower cholesterol levels. Their goal was to better understand the outcomes of having multiple diseases, the burden that symptoms placed on older adults, and the effects multiple chronic problems had on older adults’ ability to function. In addition, the researchers compared how a having diagnosis of cancer to having multiple chronic conditions affected an older adult’s ability to function. Continue reading

Polypharmacy and Deprescribing

WebDoes the number of medications you’re taking sometimes seem too high? Maybe it’s time for you and your healthcare provider to give your medication list a check-up by taking a closer look at the prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments you take.

As you grow older, you’re more likely to develop health conditions that require taking multiple medications—some of which you may take for a long time. Many older people also take OTC medications, vitamins, or supplements as part of their routine care. As a result, older adults have a higher risk of overmedication, also known as “polypharmacy”—the medical term for taking four or more medications at the same time. Polypharmacy can increase your chances of unwanted reactions (also called “adverse drug reactions”) due to medications taken on their own or together.

To address this increasingly common problem, healthcare providers are focusing on how to reduce the number of medicines older adults are using through a practice called “deprescribing.” Dr. Michael Steinman, a member of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) and a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco, recently appeared on WPUR—Boston’s NPR News Station—to discuss deprescribing with Dr. Barb Farrell, a pharmacist from Bruyère Geriatric Day Hospital in Ottawa, and Laura Landro, assistant managing editor at the Wall Street Journal. Hear what they had to say.

Want access to more tips and tools to help you manage multiple chronic conditions or multiple medications? We’ve got you covered.