The human body has many cells and a number of organs that work in manner. One of the vital organs is the heart. The heart plays an important role in pumping the blood throughout the whole blood system that is measured at 100 000 kilometres in total length. The heart is indeed a powerful organ as it never stops pumping for years until a person is pronounced dead. Hence, it is important to take care of heart health. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky to have a healthy heart. One of the heart diseases known as heart failure is certainly a serious medical condition.
Heart failure is a condition where the heart function is impaired or the heart structures are damaged and leads to the inability of the heart to pump blood properly to meet the demands of the body. The blood circulation system pumps blood to provide oxygen and to eliminate waste from the body. Heart failure without a doubt interferes with the heart function and may lead to death. If it is not death that be the last of a person, a person usually ends up with some form of disability in life. Heart failure is estimated to affect more than 64 million people throughout the world. The best way to prevent heart failure is by understanding the risk for heart failure.
Risk factors are something that increases the chance for developing a disease. This means that the risk for a person to have heart failure increases when a person has one or more risk factors. Risk factors for heart failure include older age, family history of heart failure, unhealthy lifestyle habits such as bad eating habits, smoking, heavy alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle of not engaging in physical activities or drug abuse and other forms of heart diseases, lung diseases or infections.
Now that you have known risk factors, you probably wonder what are the pre-existing conditions that may increase risk for heart failure. Pre-existing conditions are diseases that have existed even before a person is diagnosed with heart failure. In case of heart failure, pre-existing conditions that can lead to high risk for developing heart failure include heart diseases and non-heart diseases. Heart diseases such as heart valve diseases, irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) and congenital heart disease are among the common pre-existing conditions that can contribute to heart failure. Non-heart disease such as metabolic disease such as high blood sugar (diabetes) or high blood pressure (hypertension), hormone issues such as thyroid diseases and infections such as HIV or COVID-19 may increase risk for heart failure. It is worth noting that a person with pre-existing conditions does not mean that they are expected to have heart failure but when these conditions are not treated well, it can definitely be a strong contributor for developing heart failure.
Heart failure symptoms range from mild to severe. The symptoms may be constant or come and go. Symptoms depend on the side of the affected heart. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue even after taking rest, swelling of the lower legs or abdomen, temporary rapid weight gain, difficulty to sleep when lying flat, swelling in the veins of the neck, persistent coughing and nausea. Some people may urinate more than usual and experience chest pain if it is caused by heart attack. Symptoms may also be from kidney or liver damages and malnutrition.
There is no cure for heart failure but treatments available do help to alleviate symptoms and help a person live better. Common medications prescribed are antihypertensive drugs such as diuretics, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers, antiarrhythmic agents such as digoxin and antidiabetic medications. Medications given are based on the cause of the heart failure and the symptoms. In severe cases, heart surgery may be needed such as inserting a pacemaker or mechanical heart pump. Heart transplant may be recommended as the last resolution. Healthcare providers may suggest cardiac rehabilitation programs especially for those already survived from heart attack or went for heart surgery. This program aims to improve patient’s functional heart capacity to perform daily activities, to help improve factors associated with risk for heart diseases and to provide knowledge so that patients know how to manage their condition such as better managing medication and what to do when symptoms get worse.
In essence, heart failure needs to be diagnosed and treated promptly. Heart failure should not be the end for all patients with heart disease or having risk factors for the disease. Patients should engage in a healthy lifestyle as soon as possible right after they know they do have risk for heart failure. A healthy lifestyle does not only prevent heart failure but also many other diseases stemming from the bad lifestyle such as bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. This can help patients to have a fulfilling life and to be independent of their own life. Any symptoms of heart diseases should always be taken seriously and be addressed to the doctor.