The heart is one of the most important organs in the body, as it primarily pumps blood, distributing oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Normally, a well-functioning adult heart can last three heart cycles or 72 beats per minute – this rate changes for children with normal and relatively faster heartbeats. However, minor malfunctions or heart abnormalities can affect our normal functions.
When these malfunctions or abnormalities occur, our heart works at a lower capacity and is unable to pump oxygenated blood to the whole body. This condition is known as “heart failure”. This means that the heart gradually ceases to perform its functions. There is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to understanding heart failure. It is often mistaken for a heart attack, where the arteries in the heart become clogged and blood cannot flow freely. Unfortunately, few people in India are aware of this progressive disease and are unaware of the symptoms as signs of old age or other illnesses. This delays diagnosis and treatment.
Heart failure can be life threatening if not detected and treated in time. It is estimated that there is 8-10 million heart failure patients in the country and approximately 23% of them die within a year of diagnosis. With a mortality rate higher than 20%, it is high time that people were made aware of this dangerous but manageable condition. With this in mind, The Times of India has launched an initiative – Beat heart failure in partnership with Novartis. Several panel discussions were held with leading doctors from some of India’s top hospitals to give people the right knowledge and expert input on ‘Heart Failure’ to manage it effectively.
Heart failure begins with symptoms such as shortness of breath when walking or climbing stairs, swelling in the legs, lack of exercise tolerance, fluid buildup, and general difficulty performing routine tasks. Caused by the progressive weakening of the heart muscles, it causes the heart to pump less and less blood. Some other common symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, urination at night, dizziness, confusion, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations), etc. However, most people only seek medical attention when they find themselves unable to perform their daily tasks. .
But it’s not the end of the world if you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure. Breakthrough drugs have proven their effectiveness not only in the treatment of heart failure, but also in significantly improving the quality of life and increasing the lifespan by more than a decade. However, many patients stop treatment when they feel slightly better or no longer see symptoms, leading to rehospitalization. Patients should understand that since heart failure is not a fully curable condition, they should not stop taking medications without consulting their cardiologist.
Patients with comorbidities like hypertension and diabetes are more prone to heart failure, with or without visible signs and symptoms. It is important to control them with the right medications, limiting salt and fluid intake, avoiding processed foods and monitoring them regularly, so that the progression of heart failure can be managed.
When the patient visits the doctor after the advancement of the disease and the medications are unable to perform their tasks, the doctors suggest Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) which is basically the insertion of a pacemaker or l Insertion of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), or ventricular assist devices, depending on the patient’s condition.
There are other surgeries that can be performed to improve the condition, such as heart valve surgery, angioplasty, bypass surgery, or heart transplantation. Kudos to advancement in the healthcare industry, these procedures are safe and help induce longevity.
Doctors call heart failure the “pandemic” because of poor lifestyle choices. Heart failure can affect any age group, from infants to elders. Therefore, it is very important to be cautious at the first signs of heart failure, to get regular check-ups, to modify your lifestyle choices and to adhere to the medications prescribed by the doctor. Early detection is the key to living a happy and healthy life.
Heart failure is a serious condition, but it can be successfully managed with medication, lifestyle changes, and monitoring your symptoms.
Remember that heart failure is not about stopping. It’s about starting life in a new way. To learn more about managing heart failure, visit https://www.toibeatheartfailure.com/patientguide.php
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