Heart Failure or Congestive Heart Failure is a condition where the heart doesn’t pump the blood in your system as well as it should or when the ventricles in your heart don’t fill up. According to the CDC, heart failure hospitalizations continue to be on the rise, going from 1 million cases in 1996 to about 1.2 million in 2009.
However, due to better education about the symptoms and better treatment options, the mortality rate continues to decrease, going from 5% in 1996 to about 3% in 2009. The best treatment option for heart failure is prevention and early detection, so what do you need to know about heart failure?
Heart Failure Symptoms
To properly diagnose heart failure, a doctor must conduct thorough testing. However, a person with heart failure may display some of these signs:
- Shortness of Breath with exertion or when trying to lay flat
- Swelling of the abdomen, hands, legs, ankles, or feet
- Chest discomfort
- Lack of Appetite
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Increased fluid retention and bloating
- Fainting, light headedness
Other symptoms may include a lack of concentration and not being able to do activities that previously were easy to do. It is important to see a doctor when symptoms start occurring , become worse with time, and/or become severe. When one or more of these symptoms happen, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your physician.
What Causes Heart Failure
There are quite a few different causes of heart failure. After obtaining a thorough history and performing a physical exam, your physician will probably obtain an electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram (Ultrasound of the heart). Sometimes the heart does not squeeze adequately because of blockages of the arteries (Coronary artery disease, heart attack), exposure to a virus, or a toxic substance (Chemotherapy, alcohol, or Cocaine). Sometimes the heart does not relax well possibly from high blood pressure, certain cancers or aging.
Am I at Risk for Heart Failure?
People with medical conditions such as thyroid disease, high blood pressure, or and diabetes have a higher risk for developing heart failure. People who live a sedentary lifestyle aor are overweight may also have a higher risk for developing the condition. Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol may also increase your likelihood for developing heart failure. Heart failure runs in the family, so be aware of heart problems in your parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and even your children.
How do You Treat Heart Failure?
Depending on your health and other conditions, there are different ways your doctor could treat heart failure, such as:
- Lifestyle modifications: It is important to stop smoking, limit or stop alcohol consumption, watch your salt intake and get regular exercise.
- Medication: Medicine can aid your heart with pumping the blood through your body by widening the blood vessels and protecting your heart. Some of these medications include Water pills, ACE inhibitors, and Beta-Blockers. A physician will also make sure you are not taking any pills that are harmful with your condition.
- Surgery: Surgery could decrease the amount of damage to the heart and prevent further damage. For example, Bypass surgery may be needed to unblock a clogged artery; certain types of pacemakers may improve the functioning of your heart and help you live longer; or a Heart Transplant may be needed if the condition gets too severe to manage.
While Heart Failure is a complex condition, there are several options for managing and properly treating the illness. If you have questions regarding heart failure, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, you can click here.