Do you know the early signs of heart failure?
About 900,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with heart failure every year. More than half of those diagnosed are women, and 56% of the people who die from heart failure are women.
Heart failure can happen to anyone. More than 6 million Americans live with it. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the early signs and get the treatment you need. The earlier heart failure is treated, the more likely the treatment will be effective.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure is different from a heart attack. Just like a heart attack, heart failure can be life-threatening. But it’s important to know the difference.
A heart attack happens when blood flow is blocked in one of the vessels that supply the heart itself. Heart failure is a malfunction in the heart that prevents the heart muscle from filling or pumping blood well enough to keep the body working properly.
What causes heart failure?
There are common causes for heart failure. The most common is heart damage after a heart attack or due to coronary artery disease. Others include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart valve problems
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Inflammation of the muscle as Myocarditis or Sarcoidosis
- Abnormal protein infiltration as Amyloid
- Iron deposition or hemochromatosis
- Congenital heart problems
Other risk factors include:
- Older age
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Family history of heart problems
- High cholesterol
- Lack of exercise
- Sleep apnea
- Thyroid problems
- Certain chemotherapy and radiation
What are some early warning signs of heart failure?
The Heart Failure Society of America has created a quick method for identifying possible signs of heart failure using the easy-to-remember acronym FACES:
Feeling tired or without energy is a common symptom of a heart that isn’t pumping enough blood to the body.
Heart failure symptoms can make even normal daily activities difficult, because you get tired fast or have difficulty catching your breath.
One of the signs of heart failure is a build-up of fluid in the lungs that causes coughing and can make it hard to breathe.
Edema or ankle swelling:
A heart that can’t pump properly has difficulty moving blood from the legs back up through the body, causing the ankles and legs to swell with fluid. This fluid buildup can also cause a sudden increase in weight.
Shortness of breath:
Fluid in the lungs can make it more difficult to breathe.
If you have any of these symptoms, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have heart failure. But you should contact your primary care provider to talk about getting an exam to test more thoroughly for signs of heart failure.
What is the treatment for heart failure?
The treatment for heart failure will depend on several factors, including how severe it is, which symptoms are involved, and what the causes are.
Treatment can include medications or surgery, along with lifestyle changes you can make to help your heart keep pumping the way it should.
Heart failure medications include drugs that can help control your blood pressure and your heart’s rhythm. They also include water pills (diuretics) that get rid of excess fluid.
Surgery options can help to bypass blocked arteries, implant a pacemaker or defibrillator, or repair defects in the heart. More severe cases may require a heart pump (Assist device) or heart transplant.
Lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, losing weight, cutting down on sodium and fat in your diet, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, exercising and reducing stress in your life—all options that you can start practicing at any time, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with heart failure.