An Insight Into Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure is a condition when the heart cannot keep up with its workload. The inability of the heart to pump as efficiently as it used to causes the body to not get the oxygen it requires. It is a serious condition with multiple complications.

 

Is Heart Failure The Same as Heart Attack?

Nope. Even though it sounds similar, it is quite different. A heart attack is a medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked. Comparatively, heart failure is a progressive condition whereby the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently around the body. This condition can worsen over time if not treated.2 

 

What are the Common Symptoms of Heart Failure? 3

The following symptoms could indicate you might be suffering from heart failure. Please see a doctor if you do experience the following symptoms. 

  • Shortness of breath

Happens when lungs get congested or when your body is not getting enough of oxygen-rich blood. You may experience it during exercise, rest or lie flat in bed.

  • Fatigue and leg weakness

Major organs and muscles are not getting enough of oxygen-rich blood. 

  • Edema (Swelling of ankles, legs and abdomen)

Happens when kidneys do not filter enough blood, your body holds onto extra fluid and water. Hence, causing swelling (edema). 

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

In heart failure patients, the heart needs to pump faster, trying to get enough oxygen-rich blood to major organs and muscles. This causes palpitations and results in irregular heartbeat.

  • Persistent dry cough

Likely to happen when you are lying flat and have extra fluid in your lungs. 

 

Am I at Risk of Developing Heart Failure?

The following factors are associated with an increased risk of developing heart failure.

  • Old Age

Risk increases with advancing age.

  • Gender 

Men are at higher risk for heart failure than women. 

  • Family History

People with a family history of cardiomyopathies (diseases that damage the heart muscle) are at increased risk of developing heart failure.

  • Comorbidities

People with diabetes, coronary artery disease and hypertension are at high risk for heart failure. 

  • Lifestyle Factors

Smoking, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol, drug abuse, obesity can increase the risk of developing heart failure. 

 

What Happens If Heart Failure is Not Treated? 4,5 

The following health complications can occur if heart failure is not treated:

  • Arrhythmia (Irregular heartbeat)

A person with heart failure can easily develop irregular heartbeat conditions such as Atrial Fibrillation and Ventricular arrhythmia. Both conditions increase the risk of stroke and sudden cardiac death.

  • Thromboembolism (Blood clots)

When the amount of blood your heart pumps low, there is an increased chance of blot clots forming, causing blockage.

  • Kidney damage or failure

Lack of oxygen-rich blood pumped to the kidney which decreases kidney function, causing fluid buildup. 

 

Can Heart Failure Be Cured?

Unfortunately there is no cure for Heart Failure. However, with heart failure medications and healthy lifestyle modifications, patients may still lead a full and enjoyable life.1

 

How Do I Prevent Heart Failure? 

The diagram below shows the simple ways that we can lower down the risk of developing heart failure.7  

Diagram 1: How to prevent Heart Failure? (Source: JAMA Cardiology: Prevention of Heart Failure)

 

Take Away: Live Healthy to Prevent Heart Failure!

Heart Failure is a serious condition that is often overlooked. It can lead to stroke and sudden cardiac death. Therefore it is very important to protect our hearts. ‘Better late than never’, it is never too late to start practicing a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart failure!  If you experience any of the heart failure symptoms above, do consult a cardiologist. To find out more regarding heart health, you can also consult your friendly pharmacist in your nearby CARiNG Pharmacy.

 

Reference

  1. What is Heart Failure? American Heart Association. (Web accessed September 2021). Web link: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/what-is-heart-failure
  2. What’s the difference between a heart attack and heart failure? Healthline. (Web accessed September 2021). Web link: https://www.healthline.com/health/heart/heart-attack-vs-heart-failure
  3. Heart Failure : Understanding Heart Failure. Cleveland Clinic. (Web accessed September 2021). Web link: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17069-heart-failure-understanding-heart-failure
  4. Heart Failure: Complications. University’s Advanced Heart Failure Center. (Web accessed September 2021). Web link: https://www.universityhealth.org/heart-failure/complications/
  5. Clinical features and complications. R D S Watson, C R Gibbs, G Y H Lip (2000). ABC Of Heart Failure
  6. Heart Failure: Risk Factor. University’s Advanced Heart Failure Center. (Web accessed September 2021). Web link: https://www.universityhealth.org/heart-failure/risk-factors/
  7. Prevention of Heart Failure. Horwich T, Fonarow G (2017). JAMA Cardiology.