Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure is a condition that develops due to the weakening of the heart muscle which prevents the heart from pumping an adequate amount of blood to meet the body’s need for oxygen and blood. Narrowed arteries within the heart and high blood pressure weaken the heart rendering it too stiff or fragile to fill and distribute blood efficiently to important areas of the body such as the kidneys, liver, and brain.

It is estimated that 5.7 million people living within the United States have heart failure. Heart failure affects both adults and children. Left-side heart failure is present if the heart becomes incapable of distributing oxygen-rich blood to other parts of the body and right-side heart failure means that the heart can’t pump a sufficient amount of blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. Heart failure is mainly caused by diseases that cause damage to the heart such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.

What are the Symptoms of Heart Failure?

Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath (when you exert yourself or when you lie down), trouble breathing, feeling tired all the time, a rapid and irregular heartbeat, persistent cough with presence of white or blood-tinged phlegm or pink foamy mucus, and the swelling of the legs, ankles, feet, abdomen, and veins within the neck.

Additional symptoms that are often connected with heart failure are sudden weight gain derived from fluid retention, acute chest pain (if the condition is linked to a heart attack), lack of appetite, lack of attention/difficulty to focus, frequent urination (especially at night).

Heart Failure Causes

Heart failure is caused by a variety of factors. Left-sided heart failure is caused when fluid gets backed up into your lungs and causes shortness of breath. Right-sided heart failure occurs when fluid gets backed up into your legs, feet, or abdomen, causing swelling. Diastolic heart failure occurs when the left ventricle isn’t able to relax or fill up fully. Systolic heart failure strikes when the left ventricle isn’t able to contract as fast as it should, which means the heart can’t pump properly and subsequently, it fails.

The conditions that cause heart failure include myocarditis, cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle), high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), heart attack, congenital heart defects, and faulty heart valves. Other causes of heart failure include chronic diseases, such as HIV, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. A buildup of protein (amyloidosis) or iron (hemochromatosis) can also cause heart failure.

How is Heart Failure Treated?

This chronic condition requires constant monitoring and ongoing therapy. The main goals of treatment are treating the underlying condition that causes the problem and reducing the symptoms.

A treatment plan might go from lifestyle changes to drugs, devices and surgical procedures.

Thanks to these measures, it’s sometimes possible for physicians to correct heart failure by controlling a fast heart rhythm or repairing or replacing a heart valve. Treatment for the majority of people suffering from heart failure includes the use of medication along with devices designed to help the heart contract and beat properly.

Heart Failure Prevention

Preventing heart failure can be easily accomplished by following several lifestyle guidelines. For instance, taking measures to control diabetes and taking better care of your heart are great ways to combat heart failure. Eating right and exercising is a start. Consuming plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean meats is recommended as well as nuts, seeds and fish. You can also quit smoking, reduce or manage your stress, and stay physically active.

Knowing the risk factors can also help prevent heart failure. The known risk factors include viruses, alcohol use, obesity, and medications used to treat blood conditions, high blood pressure, lung conditions, neurological conditions, psychiatric conditions, cancer, urological conditions, infections, and inflammatory conditions. Some antiarrhythmic medications and certain anesthesia medications can also increase your risk of heart failure. Medications used to treat diabetes such as Avandia and Actos also contribute to the risk factors of heart failure.