Red blood cell distribution width (RDW) is elevated in patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD).
To determine RDW values and impact of CV and non-CV coexisting morbidities in elderly patients hospitalized with chronic CVD.
This prospective study included 204 consecutive elderly patients (age 77.5 [7.41] years, female 94 [46%], left ventricular ejection fraction 53.00% [37.50, 55.00]) hospitalized with chronic CVD at the Cardiology Department of Larissa University General Hospital (Larissa, Greece) from January 2019 to April 2019. Elderly patients were selected due to the high prevalence of coexisting morbidities in this patient population. Hospitalized patients with acute CVD (acute coronary syndromes, new-onset heart failure [HF], and acute pericarditis/myocarditis), primary isolated valvular heart disease, sepsis, and those with a history of blood transfusions or cancer were excluded. The evaluation of the patients within 24 h from admission included clinical examination, laboratory blood tests, and echocardiography.
The most common cardiac morbidities were hypertension and coronary artery disease, with acutely decompensated chronic heart failure (ADCHF) and atrial fibrillation (AF) also frequently being present. The most common non-cardiac morbidities were anemia and chronic kidney disease followed by diabetes mellitus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and sleep apnea. RDW was significantly elevated 15.48 (2.15); 121 (59.3%) of patients had RDW > 14.5% which represents the upper limit of normal in our institution. Factors associated with RDW in stepwise regression analysis were ADCHF (coefficient: 1.406; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.830-1.981; < 0.001), AF (1.192; 0.673 to 1.711; < 0.001), and anemia (0.806; 0.256 to 1.355; = 0.004). ADCHF was the most significant factor associated with RDW. RDW was on average 1.41 higher for patients with than without ADCHF, 1.19 higher for patients with than without AF, and 0.81 higher for patients with than without anemia. When patients were grouped based on the presence or absence of anemia, ADCHF and AF, heart rate was not increased in those with anemia but was significantly increased in those with ADCHF or AF.
RDW was elevated in elderly hospitalized patients with chronic CVD. Factors associated with RDW were anemia and CV factors associated with elevated heart rate (ADCHF, AF), suggesting sympathetic overactivity.

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