World Heart Day is celebrated on September 29 each year
Heart failure is a chronic disease that occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the metabolic needs of the body’s tissues. The prevalence of this disease is increasing due to an increase in coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and rheumatic heart disease. Besides non-modifiable factors such as age, gender, and genetics, factors such as high blood pressure and sedentary lifestyles can also increase the risk. Although heart failure is common in the elderly, there is also an increase in young adults due to these risk factors.
Heart failure develops over time as the pumping action of the heart weakens, the body tries to compensate for this through hormonal and other mechanisms. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association categorize this into 4 steps. This is because once a patient has passed to the next stage, it cannot be reversed, that is, once it passes to stage C, it cannot return to stage B or A. Therefore, heart failure is known as an irreversible disease.
Here are some common factors that can increase the risk of heart failure:
1. Lifestyle and eating habits:
It plays an important role in managing the risk of heart failure. The last few years have brought about a significant change in food and lifestyle choices. Amid the pandemic, most people adopted a sedentary lifestyle with limited physical activity. This, coupled with unhealthy eating habits, can lead to obesity, which is one of the main risk factors for heart failure.
Tip: Healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices are essential. Smoking and alcohol should be avoided and exercise for at least 20 minutes a day. Apart from this, fatty, sugary, and high cholesterol foods should be avoided. Include healthy grains, green vegetables and foods rich in omega 3 in the diet. It is also important to manage a healthy weight to avoid the problem of obesity. If the body mass index (BMI) is higher than it should be, the heart is most likely to suffer.
Mental stress can often trigger symptoms of heart failure. Long, stressful working hours and a lack of proper sleep are on the rise and often expose the body to high levels of stress hormones. It can also put pressure on the heart, causing a problem with blood clots which increases the risk of heart failure. Depression, which is caused by high mental stress, is also directly linked to heart failure.
Tip: Providing mental well-being through meditation, yoga, and good sleep can reduce the risk of heart failure. You can even seek help from counselors or take medication to reduce stress.
3. High blood pressure:
High blood pressure is most often linked to heart failure. It is also known as hypertension which can damage the arteries and force the heart to work harder to pump blood. This causes swelling of the left ventricle, increasing the risk of heart failure.
Tip: Check your blood pressure regularly and follow a diet that helps reduce high blood pressure. Regular exercise also helps manage this condition. Even a small reduction in sodium and caffeine content can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Heart failure is very common in diabetic patients. Diabetes causes hardening of the coronary arteries or atherosclerosis which increases the risk of heart failure. The coronary arteries are responsible for supplying oxygen and nutrition to the heart. Once they are clogged, the heart muscle is damaged.
Tip: Monitoring and managing blood sugar levels as well as body weight is important for controlling diabetes. It is important to take the prescribed medications to keep the sugar levels within the normal range.
5. Heart muscle disease (dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) or inflammation (myocarditis):
Any damage to the heart muscle from drug or alcohol use, viral infections, or other reasons can increase the risk of heart failure.
Tip: Maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy diet, participating in regular physical activity, avoiding stress, and getting enough sleep. Avoid habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking.
6. Coronary heart disease:
It happens when cholesterol and fatty deposits build up in the arteries of the heart, reducing blood flow to the heart muscle. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack if the arteries are completely blocked.
Tip: Maintain a heart healthy lifestyle.
Heart failure can be managed or treated depending on the stage of the disease, as the severity increases with each stage. In the early stages, treatment consists of medication and lifestyle changes, while in more advanced stages, surgery, transplantation, or implantation of a device may work effectively. Maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle is also just as important to living a life beyond heart failure.
(Dr Vishal Rastogi, Additional Director of Cardiac Sciences, Head of Advanced Heart Failure Clinic, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute)
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