Heart failure

Avoid Early Onset Heart Failure With This Expert Guide

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Our heart plays a vital role in pumping blood to all parts of the body, responding to demand adequately at all times. Any heart disease reduces the pumping ability of the heart, but when it is reduced to such an extent that the heart cannot keep up with the body’s demands, it leads to a condition called heart failure. Explaining the symptoms of heart failure, Dr. Rajesh TR, Consultant Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon, Kauvery Hospital, Bengaluru says, “People with heart failure feel tired and short of breath. A person can become so breathless and tired that they can’t even get out of bed or say a full sentence without taking breaks to catch their breath! Additionally, heart failure can cause excess water to build up in the body, causing swelling and weight gain. Swollen feet, bloated belly, and water accumulation in the chest are common.

heart

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Causes of heart failure

Dr. Rajesh shares some common causes of heart failure:

  • Heart disease like coronary artery disease, where blockages develop in the arteries supplying blood to the heart. This can cause a heart attack and damage the heart muscle.
  • Health conditions like diabetes and hypertension can affect heart muscles or predispose to coronary heart disease, leading to heart failure.
  • Faulty heart valves can lead to heart failure over a period of time.
  • Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart muscle becomes weak. It can be idiopathic (the cause of which is not known) or occur due to alcohol, infections like viral myocarditis, cancer medications, drugs like cocaine, etc.
  • Sometimes, due to intense emotional or physical stress, the heart muscle weakens, expands and leads to heart failure. This is called broken heart syndrome or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
  • In congenital heart disease, the heart does not form properly. People born with such defects are predisposed to heart failure.
heart

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Diagnose and manage heart failure

“A medical history check, a simple physical exam, some blood work, x-rays, an ECG and an echocardiogram are among the routine tasks performed to diagnose heart disease and heart failure. Sometimes a CT scan and MRI may be needed,” says Dr. Rajesh.

In most patients, heart failure can be effectively managed with oral medications and simple measures. Sometimes this may require hospitalization and the administration of injections. “The basic underlying cause should be rectified, if possible. This may require cardiac intervention or surgery. In a few patients, the condition may deteriorate to such an extent that the drugs become ineffective. This is called end-stage heart failure. Even in these patients, treatment options are available, one of which is heart transplantation,” shares Dr. Rajesh.

heart

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Prevent heart failure

Protecting the heart from damage and keeping the heart healthy starts with simple lifestyle changes. Dr. Rajesh lists some tips for the same:

  • Eat a balanced diet with lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Watch your weight and maintain it.
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Lead an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise; a sedentary lifestyle is as bad as smoking.
  • If one suffers from diabetes, hypertension, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, it must be identified and treated appropriately. Most of the time, it can be treated with diet and exercise. Sometimes medication will be needed.
  • Reduce mental stress. Turn to yoga or meditation, spend time with family and friends, pursue a hobby, take breaks, get out, etc.
  • Get checked regularly. If a problem is identified, resolve it quickly with expert help.
  • Don’t fall prey to home remedies and social media. Treat complications the right way before they cause permanent damage.

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