Heart failure is a serious health condition that affects millions of people around the world. In this guide, we’ll discuss all the different types of heart failure, its symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Patients can make a huge difference in their lives with the right resources and information.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood and oxygen to the body’s other organs. In other words, the heart becomes weakened and is unable to do its job effectively.
Heart failure is known to be one of the leading causes of death in adults over 65. There is no cure, but treatment options can help control symptoms and reduce further damage to the heart regardless of the types of heart failure.
Signs and symptoms of heart failure
The most common signs of heart failure are given below.
- Shortness of breath: This is one of the early signs of heart failure and can worsen with exercise or when lying down, depending on the heart failure stages.
- Fatigue: People with heart failure symptoms often experience fatigue and may find it difficult to carry out everyday activities.
- Swelling: Heart failure can cause fluid retention, leading to swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, and abdomen.
- Chest pain: People may experience chest pain, tightness, or pressure caused by the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently.
- Irregular heartbeat: Heart arrhythmias may occur, which can cause a fluttering or pounding sensation in the chest.
- Loss of appetite: Heart failure can cause a loss of appetite and nausea.
Causes of heart failure
Heart failure is a complex medical condition that can be caused by many factors. The most common causes include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve problems, and diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and kidney disease.
In some cases, the cause of heart failure is unknown.
Coronary artery disease, which occurs when there is a buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, is a common cause of heart failure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is another major cause of heart failure. When the force of the blood against the artery walls becomes too high, it can put a strain on the heart muscle.
Risk factors for heart failure
Heart failure can affect anyone, but some people are more likely to develop it than others.
- High Blood Pressure: Hypertension causes the walls of the arteries to become thick and stiff, making it harder for the heart to pump blood effectively.
- Coronary Artery Disease: Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque buildup in the heart arteries restricts blood flow to the heart muscle.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart failure due to the damage that high blood sugar levels.
- Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition that affects breathing during sleep. It can lead to reduced oxygen levels in the blood, which can cause strain on the heart and lead to heart failure.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese puts extra strain on the heart and increases the risk of developing heart failure.
- Family History: Having a family history of heart failure increases the risk.
Diagnosis of heart failure
If a doctor suspects heart failure, they will likely order diagnostic tests to confirm a diagnosis. Diagnostic tests can include the following.
- An echocardiogram uses sound waves to create an image of the heart and measure its functioning.
- A chest X-ray will show how much the heart is enlarged or if there is fluid in the lungs.
- An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a test that records the heart’s electrical activity. It can help diagnose any underlying rhythm disturbances or evidence of a previous heart attack.
- Blood tests measure levels of certain substances in the blood, such as electrolytes and enzymes released by damaged heart cells.
- An exercise stress test measures how well the heart works during physical activity.
Treatment of heart failure
Heart failure treatment is based on the severity of the condition and is tailored to individual needs.
- Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes is important in treating heart failure. This may include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, following a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and managing stress levels.
- Medications: Medications are often prescribed to reduce the symptoms of heart failure and may include ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, vasodilators, anticoagulants, and cardiac glycosides.
- Procedures: Depending on the underlying cause of the heart failure, doctors may also recommend procedures to improve the condition, such as coronary angioplasty or bypass surgery.
Prevention of heart failure
Making healthy lifestyle changes can help patients prevent or delay the onset of heart failure. A few key steps patients can take include the following.
- Eating a healthy diet: Eating foods that are low in sodium, saturated fats and added sugars can help reduce the risk of developing heart failure.
- Exercising regularly: Regular physical activity can help strengthen the heart muscles and reduce the risk of developing heart failure.
- Avoiding tobacco: Smoking increases the risk of developing heart failure. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to reduce the risk.
- Limiting alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol can damage the heart muscle and increase the risk of developing heart failure.
- Practising good hygiene habits: Washing hands often and getting enough sleep can help reduce the risk of developing illnesses which may lead to heart failure.
Heart failure is a complex medical condition that can affect anyone. Some are more likely to develop it than others, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and causes. Consult a doctor if you detect multiple signs.
If you are experiencing heart failure symptoms, the expert team at the CK Birla Hospital can provide comprehensive emergency care. And assist with a range of services to diagnose cardiac conditions.
Here the diagnosis is supported with various state-of-the-art cardiac imaging technologies, such as echocardiography, cardiac MRI, and CT scans, to get detailed images of your heart. For any consultation and guidance, book an appointment with Dr Sanjeeva Kumar Gupta now.