Heart Failure: Are You at Risk?


Filed under Health & Wellness

More than a half million Americans will be diagnosed with heart failure this year, and the number of people suffering from the syndrome is expected to double during the next few decades as the U.S. population ages. So the chances are good either you or someone you know will one day be diagnosed with heart failure.

If allowed to progress without treatment, heart failure has a great impact on quality of life and can shorten life expectancy. In the United States, it is the single most frequent cause of hospitalization for people over age 65, and more people die from heart failure than from all forms of cancer combined. It is the only cardiovascular disease on the rise.

Although the word heart failure has an ominous ring, it does not mean that the heart has stopped or is about to stop suddenly. Heart failure means that the heart is not pumping blood as well as it should through its chambers to the rest of the body. Heart failure is a common condition that can be caused by a heart attack, long-term high blood pressure, a heart valve abnormality, a viral infection of the heart or a genetic condition that runs in families. Sometimes the exact cause of heart failure is not known.

In its advanced stages, heart failure limits a person’s ability to do even simple everyday tasks; but new treatments can be very effective in slowing and stopping the progression of the disease and in some cases can even reverse the process. The key is early diagnosis and treatment. People with risk factors such as high blood pressure, blockages in their coronary arteries, damaged heart valves, family history or diabetes should ask their doctor about their risk of developing heart failure.

No matter the initial cause, the effect tends to be the same. The weakened heart must work harder to keep up with the demands of the body and this is why people with heart failure often complain of feeling tired and why they develop symptoms of congestion.

Other symptoms of heart failure include:

• Shortness of breath, which can happen even during mild activity

• Swelling in the feet and legs from fluid retention (results in weight gain)

• Cough with frothy sputum

• Difficulty breathing when lying down which may waken you from sleep at night

Although heart failure can be a serious and progressive disease, individuals with heart failure can live active and fulfilling lives with proper intervention and treatment. Once diagnosed, it’s important to work with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan and to follow it. Proper medications in the right doses, careful monitoring and self-care are the basis of effectively managing heart failure.

Better understanding of the disease has led to development of new treatments and management strategies — from medication to implantation of devices to surgery.

In addition to taking medicines exactly as directed, persons with heart failure should:

• Weigh themselves every day
• Follow a low-sodium (salt) diet
• Get regular physical activity
• Quit smoking
• Avoid alcohol or drink sparingly
• Control body weight
• Monitor symptoms and learn when to consult a doctor or nurse

Friends and family members can help by learning about heart failure and the patient’s treatment plan.

The Heart Failure Society of America has taken the lead in developing a series of modules on heart failure because education plays such an important role in helping patients manage their care successfully. By reading these modules, patients and individuals at risk can learn more about medications they are taking, following low-sodium diets, the importance of remaining active, managing their feelings, and learning how to evaluate treatments available.

All educational materials developed by the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) for patients, families, and individuals at risk can be found on the HFSA Web site: www.abouthf.org. Copies can be downloaded, or a complimentary hard copy can be ordered.

The Heart Failure Society of America is a nonprofit organization of health care professionals and researchers who are dedicated to enhancing quality and duration of life for patients with heart failure and preventing the condition in those at risk.

Article courtesy of ARA Content

Comments are closed.