When the heart isn’t able to pump enough blood throughout the body, heart failure occurs, leading to symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath.
One of our employees relatives was brought to the hospital by ambulance. We were told his heart had stopped a couple times and CRP was done by the first responder. We were frightened and started researching cardiac arrest, learning it is fatal in 9 out of 10 instances. Luckily, the reason he was actually brought to the hospital was because he had stopped breathing twice. Big difference, still scary.
Approximately 5.7 million Americans are affected by heart failure.
“Heart failure occurs when the muscles of the heart essentially die, or weaken,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, the director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a national spokeswomen for the Go Red for Women campaign. “As heart function weakens, the blood doesn’t push forward through the body as easily.”
Many symptoms can occur, from shortness of breath, fatigue, to swollen ankles.
1. There are different types of heart failure.
The heart’s left ventricle, right ventricle or both can be affected by heart failure. Systolic heart failure is the most common failure, when the heart muscle’s function is diminished and blood doesn’t flow as readily through the body.
Diastolic heart failure occurs when the heart experiences relaxation impairment and is unable to fill with blood properly due to stiffening of the muscle.
Heart failure is often referred to as “congestive heart failure,” which means that fluid has accumulated in other parts of the body (such as in the lungs and liver) as a result of blood circulating improperly. But not all cases of heart failure are congestive.
2. Certain conditions may signal heart problems
Heart failure tends to follow other conditions. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks or coronary artery disease are more likely to experience heart failure. Many of these diseases do weaken the heart.
The good news is many of these conditions are correctable, given good lifestyle choices and taking steps to reduce the risks.
3. Pinpointing symptoms isn’t always easy.
When it comes to your heart health, determining whether certain symptoms are linked to heart problems isn’t always easy. Still, when the heart is unable to meet the demands of the body, typical symptoms would include shortness of breath, swelling of the extremities (think: feet, ankles, and legs), chronic coughing,fatigue, a diminished appetite, or a quickened heart rate.
4. Diagnosis are largely symptom based.
“Heart failure is diagnosed by symptoms more than anything” explains Dr. Steinbaum. “If someone has worsening shortness of breath, inability to walk down the street, or they can’t lie flat in bed without difficulty breathing, their doctor may want to do an EKG to look for heart damage or an echocardiogram, which looks at the function of the heart muscle.” If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment and discuss it with your doctor.
5. Exercise Helps
Regular exercise is an excellent way to lower the risk of heart disease. Aerobic exercise prevents weight gain (lowering the risk of diabetes and obesity) and also keeps your arteries healthy and controls blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The American Heart Association recommends at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity physical activity every week.
6. Avoid Salty Foods
Consuming too much sodium causes the body to retain water. Excess salt raises your risk of blood pressure, which in turn taxes the heart even more.
7. Not Smoking Is Very Important
“Everytime someone inhales from a cigarette, they’re potentially tearing the lining of the arteries, called the endothelium,” says Dr. Steinbaum. As this lining gets worn down, she explains, a person’s risk of developing coronary artery disease—as well as heart attacks and subsequent heart failure—goes up. “Stopping smoking is the most preventable thing we can do,” she adds.
Lifestyle factors play a big role in lowering one’s risk of cardiovascular disorders.
8. Choose a Heart-Healthy Diet
For patients with heart failure, a balanced diet is important. Heart-healthy food include:
- Salmon – packed with omega-3 fatty acides
- Avocados – a healthy fat
- Oatmeal – soluble fiber which can help lower cholesterol
- Nuts – more fiber plus vitamin E
- Fresh Produce – blueberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes
9. Customized Treatments are Available
The good news is there are multiple treatment options for people diagnosed with heart failure. The first step is treating the underlying causes of heart failure such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Doctors can conduct tests to see if there is blockage or placque buildup present.
10. Embrace a Healthy Lifestyle
Lifestyle choices can make all the difference in preventing heart failure.
“Learning the best way to eat and making time to get up and move—even if it’s just walking 10,000 steps a day—is a huge part of staying healthy and preventing heart failure down the road,” Dr. Steinbaum says. “Plus, it’s a progressive disease. Let’s make healthy choices now so we never have to get there.”