By the time a heart failure patient arrives at a hospital’s emergency department in distress, it’s too late to reverse progression of the often-fatal condition.

Early detection is essential, but doctors have few existing tools. “It’s a very insidious disease,” said Walter Stewart, vice president and chief research officer for Sutter Health in Sacramento, Calif. “It overlaps with other health problems.” Some 50 percent of heart failure patients die within five years.

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