What is Heart Failure?
Heart Failure is a condition which occurs when the ability of the heart to pump blood through the blood vessels of the body to different organs becomes impaired. Common symptoms of Heart Failure occur due to the inability of the heart to perform its primary function, which is to pump blood from the heart to various organs in the body.
What are the Risk Factors Associated with Developing Heart Failure?
Age is an important risk factor for the development of Heart Failure. Heart failure is the most common cause of hospital admission in people over age 65 years. In Temple Hospital, Heart Failure was the number 1 reason for hospital admission prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes are important risk factors for the development of Heart Failure in people over age 65. High Blood Pressure is an important factor in the lifetime risk for developing Heart Failure. Women with Heart Failure more often have diabetes and a special form of heart failure called Heart Failure with a Preserved Ejection Fraction. Other risk factors include but are not limited to obesity, alcohol or drug abuse and prior heart attacks.
What are Some of the Signs that May Suggest you have Heart Failure?
The most common symptoms of Heart Failure are shortness of breath while lying flat, shortness of breath with physical activity, waking up suddenly in the middle of the night with shortness of breath, increased weight gain, swelling of the legs or feet.
What are the Major Consequences of having Heart Failure?
This condition is associated with periods of stability and decompensation. Heart Failure can be treated with medications and advanced therapies to help control symptoms, improved life expectancy and improve the quality of life for people with the disorder. The condition is a progressive one and in certain patients, additional therapies such as heart transplantation and mechanical support devices become necessary to stabilize patients with the disorder.
Now that you are diagnosed with Heart Failure, what can you do to help the situation?
Living a healthy lifestyle and controlling the modifiable risk factors associated with developing heart failure can go a long way to preventing the development of the disorder. Control of diabetes to achieve a hemoglobin A1c of less than 7, control of BP<130/80, maintaining a healthy weight and receiving enough physical activity.
What things can I do if I have Heart Failure to decrease my chances of being admitted to the hospital?
Heart Failure typically has periods of stability and decompensation. To maintain stability and decrease the number of admissions which a person has, several recommendations exist to help with the treatment of the disorder. Two-thirds of the admissions for heart failure are preventable. Common reasons include: not taking Heart Failure medications as prescribed and not following a heart healthy diet with salt restriction, and failure to seek care. Other reasons comprise the remainder of causes of hospital readmission for heart failure and include: arrhythmia-related decompensation, pneumonia, distrust of physician, acute ischemia, and infections.
What can you do to help yourself if you have Heart Failure?
Heart Failure in 2021 is a manageable disease and there are several treatments designed to make individuals suffering from live longer and have a good quality of life. Self-care is the process of making sure you properly care for yourself when you have a chronic illness. American Heart Association recommendations for self-care practices for heart failure include:
- Developing a system for taking all medications as prescribed.
- Monitoring weight regularly.
- Learn about your symptoms of heart failure and reach out to physicians or health care providers as soon as symptoms deteriorate.
- Closely watch dietary intake of sodium.
- Achieve diabetic control with a hemoglobin A1c< 7
- Restrict alcohol intake.
- Avoid tobacco and illicit drug use.
- Seek treatment for depression and anxiety if it occurs.
- Attend regularly scheduled visits with your health care provider.
- Maintain regular exercise.
- Make sure you are up to date with seasonal vaccinations such as the Flu vaccine.