According to the Center for Disease Control, the United States spends north of $30 billion on heart failure every year. This is a consequence of more than 5.7 million cases that occur annually. On top of that, half of the individuals who are unfortunate enough to get diagnosed die within five years.
Given the widespread effects that this condition carries, it comes as no surprise that it is one of the most notorious diagnoses that exist. Fortunately, as medicine continues to develop, more and more treatments will be invented. Thus, the odds of falling victim to one of the aforementioned statistics will continuously decline. Until then, it is important that people educate themselves on the matter. Doing so will help minimize the risk as they will be able to take preventive measures and identify any potential symptoms. So, what exactly is heart failure?
Heart Failure Explained
In simple terms, heart failure is what happens when the heart muscle is unable to pump blood effectively. Although there are many different reasons why this can take place, it is normally related to arteries and one’s blood pressure. Namely, those who have high blood pressure will usually have weakened or narrow arteries. This can reduce the blood flow and force the heart to pump with much less efficiency. Over time, the condition may lead to a heart attack where the blood flow is completely cut off.
Although heart failure is caused by high blood pressure or narrow arteries, per se, neither of these happen overnight. In fact, they can take decades to develop and revolve around things like excessive body weight, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and similar. Why? Well, individuals who do not take proper care of their health will often have a higher risk of being overweight. This is often directly related to a bad diet with a lot of fat and sugar. Consequently, the arteries can become clogged and force the heart to work twice as hard to push a normal amount of blood. As with every other muscle, however, the heart can only go for so long until it loses its ability to operate. Once that happens, the patient could begin a downward spiral that will ultimately lead to heart blockage.
Since the heart is one of the most important parts of someone’s body, any failures will generate a plethora of symptoms. The most common ones include shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling in the leg area, irregular heartbeats, lack of appetite, inability to exercise, and decreased alertness. Given that most of these are physical symptoms that can be spotted with a naked eye, one should be able to recognize them fairly early. According to a heart surgeon from Houston, Texas, Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, they must then notify their doctor immediately and pursue a customized treatment plan.
Unfortunately, there is no way to cure heart failure because the muscle is often damaged beyond repair. Instead, patients have to rely on life-long treatments to manage their symptoms and make them more bearable. Some of the most common approaches include drugs like enzyme inhibitors, receptor and beta blockers, diuretics, and more. Also, people can resort to surgery that will help them treat severely blocked arteries that cannot be fixed with drugs.
Therefore, some popular treatments further include coronary bypass surgery and heart valve repair. In the end, people who have to deal with heart failure that is beyond any repair may require a full heart transplant. Sadly, the waiting times for this procedure are extremely long as the number of donors is much lower than the number of those in need.
Understanding and Addressing Risk Factors
According to Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, the first step to staying clear of heart failure is knowing the risk factors. These include things like one’s medical history, their eating habits, and physical activity levels. If all of those are favorable, their cumulative risk of heart failure will probably be minimal. Those who can identify with any of the aforementioned, however, should immediately look at some ways that can help them stay healthy for a longer time. Examples include:
- Not smoking;
- Taking care of conditions like diabetes;
- Eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise;
- Keeping weight in check.
Doing all of these will be a great start as it will ensure that one is offering their body a good source of energy while also getting the required exercise. In the end, visiting one’s doctor on a regular basis and getting a complete exam will make it much easier to spot any new conditions that have to be addressed.