APPROXIMATELY 5.7 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE U.S. HAVE HEART FAILURE, a condition causing 300,000 deaths each year. But what is heart failure? Are you at risk? And what can you do to treat it?
“Heart failure is not a sudden stopping of the heart,” explains James Warnock, MD, of Baptist Heart. “It’s a condition that develops over time. The heart’s pumping action is weakened by disease or other health issues, eventually leading to an inability to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body.”
Are you at risk?
Certain diseases and health conditions can put you at a greater risk for heart failure:
:: Coronary heart disease — a narrowing of the small vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart
:: High blood pressure
:: Cardiomyopathy — a weakening of the heart muscle caused by infection
:: Metabolic syndrome
Additional risk factors include a history of certain types of drug therapies, alcohol abuse, rheumatoid arthritis, emphysema, overactive or underactive thyroid, and severe anemia.
What are the symptoms of heart failure?
“Early stages of heart disease may not have any noticeable symptoms,” says Dr. Warnock. As the condition worsens, a person may experience the following:
:: Shortness of breath when climbing stairs or lying in bed
:: Waking in the night suddenly breathless
:: General tiredness and weakness
:: Swelling of the feet, legs, or ankles
:: Sudden weight gain over a one- to two-day period
:: Chronic cough
How is heart failure treated?
Currently, heart failure has no cure. However, medical treatments and lifestyle changes can help people with heart failure live longer, more active lives:
:: Quitting smoking
:: Controlling your weight
:: Treating high blood pressure and cholesterol
:: Discontinuing alcohol and illegal drug use
:: Staying active