Definition of Heart Failure
Heart failure, also known as Cardiac failure is a serious condition which is caused by the heart’s inability to pump sufficient blood around the body. The reduced efficiency is usually a result of other factors which have caused damage to the heart, rather than a disease of the heart itself. It should not be confused with Acute Heart Failure which is the instant failure of the heart due to a heart attack.
Causes of Heart Failure There are various causes for the condition, the most common being damage to the heart muscle, possibly due to a previous heart attack. Other causes may be :-
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Excessive Alcohol consumption
- Disorders of the heart valves
- Viral infections
- Other conditions which may place an excessive workload on the heart
The problem is that because the heart has to work harder to compensate for it’s lack of efficiency, its pumping ability is further damaged, which leads to a vicious cycle of failure, and increased likelihood of complete pumping failure and death.
Who is likely to suffer from Heart failure?
The likelihood of experiencing heart failure increases with age. Between the ages of 35 and 64, only 4 percent of new cases are diagnosed annually, rising to 10 percent over the age of 65. In the United States there are over 5 million people who have the condition, with more than a half million new cases being diagnosed every year.
Additionally, the incidence of heart failure shows an upward trend, mainly due to an aging population, combined with advances in treatment for other heart conditions, which would otherwise have resulted in Cardiac patients dying before the onset of heart failure.
Diagnosing the Symptoms of Heart failure
As the heart begins to fail, various changes occur within the body in response to the changes associated with the failing heart. In the early stages these may not produce any abnormal symptoms, but as the failure gets progressively worse the body may exhibit increasingly severe reactions as it attempts to compensate for the lack of oxygen rich blood due to the failure of the heart to pump sufficient quantities. These may include :-
- Swollen feet and ankles
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you have blood tests, and possibly a heart diagnostic test such as an Electrocardiogram (ECG). Combined with a thorough examination of your medical history, the Doctor will be able to confirm or rule out the likelihood of Cardiac failure.
Treatment for Heart Failure
It is important to note that currently there is no cure for Cardiac failure, and statistics from the United Kingdom indicate that mortality rates are high, with 50 percent of patients dying after 5 years. There are two main treatments for Heart failure – medication, and lifestyle changes.
Medication prescription will be under the care of the Doctor or Heart specialist, and may include combination treatments of ACE Inhibitors, Beta Blockers, Diuretics, and Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers.
There are also many common sense lifestyle recommendations that everyone should follow, regardless of whether they are suffering from Heart failure or not, or whether they want to reduce the risk of developing the condition later in life. These may be summarised as follows :-
- Stop Smoking
- Keep alcohol consumption within reasonable limits
- Maintain the correct body weight
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as part of a balanced diet
- Reduce salt intake
- Maintain an active lifestyle, under ther guidance of your Doctor
- Monitor your total intake of fluids
- Take regular rest and relaxation periods to reduce demand on the heart (if you are already a sufferer)
- Avoid stress