Nutrition and cardiac cachexia

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Purpose of reviewCongestive heart failure is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, especially in older persons. In advanced stages of the disease, congestive heart failure can be associated with serious complications such as cardiac cachexia (defined here as weight loss of more than 6% in 6 months). This review will discuss recent insights into the pathophysiology, anthropometric predictors and potential management of cardiac cachexia.Recent findingsCardiac cachexia and the associated progressive weight loss are sometimes overlooked by care providers. A delay in diagnosis often results in further loss of vital tissues, progressive weakness, fall-related injuries and potentially long-term care institutionalization and/or death. Emerging data suggest that congestive heart failure is a dynamic disorder of many organ systems, including the myocardial, neurohormonal, immune, vascular, gastrointestinal, renal and musculoskeletal systems. It is becoming more widely appreciated that it is the deterioration of this interactive multisystem complex that results in the systemic inflammation and progressive wasting and atrophy of muscle and other organ tissues, which is the hallmark of cardiac cachexia.SummaryCardiac cachexia in congestive heart failure patients may be associated with a low level of physical activity. A high systemic inflammatory state is another marker of cardiac cachexia. Prudent anti-inflammatory nutrition, dietary supplements and exercise can serve to ameliorate and/or potentially prevent progressive wasting. A better understanding of factors contributing to the development of cardiac cachexia will enable us to design preventive strategies and provide improved care for individuals with this debilitating condition.

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