What is Heart Disease?
Almost 6 million people in the United States suffer from heart failure. Around 670,000 individuals are given a diagnosis with heart failure each year in the United States. It is the most common cause for patients aged 65 and older to be admitted to the hospital.
What exactly is heart failure, anyway?
Heart failure does not always indicate that the heart has completely ceased pumping blood. Instead, it indicates that the heart is working at a lower efficiency compared to usual. The pace at which blood circulates through the heart and the rest of the body slows down, and the pressure within the heart rises as a result of a variety of potential reasons. As a direct consequence of this, the heart is unable to pump sufficient amounts of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body to satisfy its requirements.
In response, the chambers of the heart may either stiffen and thicken to store more blood so that it can be pumped throughout the body, or they may expand out so that they can hold more blood. While this helps to keep the blood circulating, it may ultimately cause the muscular walls of the heart to weaken to the point where it cannot pump blood as effectively. The kidneys’ reaction may be to make the body hold onto fluid (water) and salt. The body gets congested when fluid accumulates in areas such as the arms, legs, ankles, and feet, in addition to the lungs and other organs. The condition is referred to as congestive heart failure, which is the word that is used to describe it.
What are the Root Causes of Cardiac Failure?
Failure of the heart muscle to pump blood effectively may be brought on by several disorders, including the following:
- A disease of the coronary arteries. A reduction in the amount of blood that can flow to the heart muscle is one of the symptoms of coronary artery disease (CAD), which is a disease that affects the arteries that carry blood and oxygen to the heart. If the arteries become completely blocked or significantly constricted, the heart will be deprived of oxygen and nourishment.
- Heart attack. A heart attack may occur if one of the coronary arteries suddenly becomes blocked, cutting off blood supply to the heart muscle. Damage to the heart muscle caused by a heart attack leaves behind scar tissue that prevents the organ from functioning as efficiently as it should.
- Cardiomyopathy. Heart muscle damage that is not caused by a problem with the arteries or the flow of blood, such as that caused by infections or by excessive use of alcohol or drugs
- Conditions that put an unnecessary strain on the heart. Heart failure may be caused by a variety of medical conditions, including but not limited to high blood pressure, valve disease, thyroid illness, renal disease, diabetes, or cardiac abnormalities present at birth. In addition, the presence of many illnesses or disorders at the same time increases the risk of developing heart failure.
What signs and symptoms point to the possibility of heart failure?
It is possible that you would not have any symptoms of heart failure; alternatively, the symptoms might range from moderate to severe. The symptoms may be present all the time or they may come and go. These are some of the possible symptoms:
- Lungs that are stuffed up. A buildup of fluid in the lungs might make it difficult to breathe at rest or while laying flat in the bed, or it can cause shortness of breath during physical activity. Wheezing and a dry, hacking cough are two symptoms that might be caused by lung congestion.
- The retention of fluids and liquids Edema is the medical term for swelling that occurs in the ankles, legs, and belly as a consequence of fluid and water retention, which is caused by decreased blood flow to the kidneys. The symptoms may make you have to urinate more often while you’re sleeping. When gas builds up in your stomach, it may make you feel sick and cause you to lose your appetite.
- Vertigo, weariness, and a general feeling of weakness. Since your primary organs and muscles are receiving less blood, you will feel fatigued and weak. Having less blood flow to the brain might result in feeling lightheaded or confused.
Rhythms of the heart that are irregular or very fast. To provide the body with sufficient blood, the heart beats at a quicker rate. This might result in a pulse that is either very fast or very erratic.
If you suffer from heart failure, you might be experiencing any one of these symptoms, all of them, or none of them at all. These could or might not point to a weakening of the heart.
What Kind of Heart Failure Are There to Choose From?
It is possible to have systolic dysfunction, also known as systolic heart failure if the heart muscle does not contract with sufficient power. This results in a decrease in the amount of oxygen-rich blood that is pumped throughout the body.
Diastolic dysfunction, also known as diastolic heart failure, is a condition that occurs when the heart contracts regularly but the ventricles do not relax adequately or are stiff. As a result, the heart receives a lower volume of blood during normal filling.
Ejection fraction, also known as EF, is a calculation that is performed during an echocardiogram and is used to quantify how well your heart pumps with each beat. This calculation may assist detect whether systolic or diastolic dysfunction is present in the heart. The diagnosis of your problem may be discussed with your doctor.
How can Doctors Determine Whether Someone Has Heart Failure?
Your physician is going to grill you with questions regarding your symptoms and previous health conditions. You will be questioned about whether or not you have any problems that might lead to heart failure (such as coronary artery disease, angina, diabetes, heart valve disease, and high blood pressure). You will be questioned about whether or not you smoke, whether or not you use drugs, whether or not you drink alcohol (and how much you drink), and what drugs you take.
You’ll also undergo a comprehensive physical exam. Your doctor will listen to your heart to seek for symptoms of heart failure and other disorders that may have contributed to the weakening or stiffening of your heart muscle.
Your primary care physician may potentially decide to request further diagnostic procedures to ascertain the kind and extent of your heart failure. These are the following:
- Blood testing. Blood tests are used to assess the functionality of the kidneys and the thyroid, in addition to determining cholesterol levels and determining whether or not anaemia is present. Anaemia is a blood disorder that occurs when there is not enough haemoglobin (the material in red blood cells that permits the blood to carry oxygen throughout the body) in the blood. Haemoglobin is responsible for giving red blood cells their ability to transport oxygen.
- blood test for B-type natriuretic peptide, often known as BNP. BNP is a chemical that is released by the heart in response to changes in blood pressure that occur when heart failure develops or worsens. These variations in blood pressure occur when heart failure is caused by or worsens. The levels of BNP in the blood rise as the symptoms of heart failure become more severe, and they fall when the heart failure situation remains stable.
- It is possible that the BNP level of a person who has heart failure, even one whose condition is stable, will be greater than the BNP level of a person whose heart is functioning normally. There is not always a correlation between the levels of BNP and the degree of heart failure.
- X-ray of the chest An X-ray of the chest may determine the size of your heart as well as whether or not there is fluid buildup around the lungs and the heart.
- Echocardiogram. An ultrasound is used to do this examination, which reveals the motion, anatomy, and function of the heart.
- It is possible to diagnose systolic dysfunction or heart failure with intact left ventricular function by measuring a patient’s ejection fraction (EF), which indicates how efficiently the heart pumps blood with each beat of the heart. The diagnosis of your problem may be discussed with your doctor.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) (EKG or ECG). An electrocardiogram is a recording that shows the electrical impulses that are happening in the heart.
- Catheterization of the heart. Congestive heart failure may sometimes be traced back to coronary artery disease, and this invasive treatment can assist identify whether or not this is the case.
- Stress Test. The possibility of coronary artery disease may be determined by the use of noninvasive stress testing.
Depending on the severity of your problem, the doctor may recommend further testing.
Is There Any Kind of Help Available for Those Who Have Heart Failure?
Now, patients with heart failure have access to a wider variety of therapeutic alternatives than ever before. To get started, you need to have complete command of your lifestyle and drugs and pay close attention to your progress. When the illness worsens, medical professionals that specialise in the treatment of heart failure can provide patients with more cutting-edge therapy alternatives.
The aims of treating heart failure are to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, and minimise the risk of mortality and the need for hospitalisation. The primary goal of treating heart failure is to attempt to prevent the condition from growing worse.
The following are some examples of popular kinds of medications that are used to treat it:
- Inhibitors of ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors)
- Aldosterone antagonists
- ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) (angiotensin II receptor blockers)
- ARNIs (angiotensin receptor-neprilysin inhibitors) (angiotensin receptor-neprilysin inhibitors)
- Blood vessel dilators
- Calcium channel blockers
- Medications for the heart pump
- Potassium or magnesium
- inhibitors selective for the sinus node
- SGLT2 (sodium/glucose cotransporter) inhibitor
Your doctor may also suggest that you participate in a programme known as cardiac rehabilitation, which is designed to assist patients in exercising safely and maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. Often, it will consist of physical activities that are tailored specifically to your needs, as well as instruction and suggestions on how to minimise your risk of heart problems, such as giving up smoking or altering your diet.
Emotional assistance is also available via cardiac rehabilitation. You will find other individuals who are in the same boat as you, and they will encourage you to keep going.
How Many Stages Does Heart Failure Have?
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) first published their description of the “Stages of Heart Failure” in the year 2001. You will have a better understanding of heart failure as a progressive disorder that may become worse over time by looking at these phases, which were revised and brought up to date in the year 2005. They will also help you understand why a new drug was introduced to your treatment plan, and they may help you comprehend why adjustments to your lifestyle and other therapies are necessary. Both of these things are important for you to grasp.
The New York Heart Association (NYHA) clinical classifications of heart failure rank patients as class I-II-III-IV according to the degree of symptoms or functional limits. The stages that are classified by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) are different. Inquire with your physician about the stage of heart failure you are now experiencing.
Examine the table below to check whether the recommendations made by the AHA and ACC align with the treatment you are receiving. Take note that you can only go forward while on stage; you cannot go backwards.
The following table provides an idea of a fundamental care plan, which may or may not apply to you depending on the underlying cause of your heart failure as well as any particular requirements that you have. If you do not understand why you are getting some treatments or why you are not receiving others, you should ask your doctor to explain them to you.
Definition of Stage
|Individuals who are at a high risk of developing heart failure (pre-heart failure), such as those who have the following conditions:
|Individuals who have been diagnosed with systolic left ventricular dysfunction but who have never had any symptoms of heart failure are said to be in a pre-heart failure state. This includes persons who have the following conditions:
During an echocardiography test, the diagnosis is often determined when an ejection fraction that is lower than 40 percent is discovered.
Patients who have had a heart attack should, where appropriate, have discussions about the possibility of undergoing surgery.
|Individuals who are known to have systolic heart failure and who are experiencing symptoms now or have previously. The following are the most prevalent symptoms:
Individuals who have systolic heart failure and are experiencing advanced symptoms despite obtaining the best possible medical therapy.
The clinical classifications of heart failure used by the New York Heart Association (NYHA) categorise persons as class I, class II, class III, or class IV depending on the severity of their symptoms or their functional limitations. If you wish to know what stage of heart failure you are currently in, you may ask your doctor for that information.
- Class I: Your level of physical activity is unaffected, and you do not experience any unusual feelings of exhaustion, shortness of breath, palpitations, or discomfort when engaging in routine activities.
- Class II: Moderate restrictions placed on normally occurring activities. During the regular activity, you may have slight weariness, shortness of breath, palpitations, or discomfort; while you are at rest, you will not have these symptoms.
- Class III: Significant restrictions placed on daily activities. You have symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath, palpitations, or discomfort during activities that are less than usual, but you do not experience these symptoms while you are at rest.
- Class IV: You’re uncomfortable even at rest. Every kind of physical exercise makes the discomfort much worse.
What Can I Do to Avoid the Worsening of My Heart Failure?
- Take care of your elevated blood pressure. When someone has heart failure, the blood arteries become narrower and more constricted as a result of the production of hormones. Because of the narrowed blood veins, the heart has to work very hard to pump blood across the body. It is essential to maintain a healthy blood pressure level so that your heart can pump blood more efficiently and without experiencing any additional strain.
- Keep a close eye on your symptoms. If you weigh yourself every day and look for signs of swelling, you can monitor any shifts in the amount of fluid in your body. If you have unexplained weight gain (three pounds in one day or five pounds in one week), you should make an appointment with your primary care physician.
- Keep the fluid equilibrium in check. Your physician may ask you to maintain a log of the number of fluids and food that you consume, as well as the frequency with which you use the restroom. Keep in mind that the more fluid that you hold in your blood vessels, the harder your heart will have to work to pump the extra fluid out of your body. Your symptoms may be prevented from returning if you reduce the number of liquids you consume each day to less than two litres. This will assist reduce the burden placed on your heart.
- Reduce the amount of salt (sodium) in your diet. Several foods that we consume include sodium in their natural form. In addition to imparting taste, it helps foods maintain their freshness for longer. If you adhere to a diet that is low in salt, you should have less fluid retention, reduced oedema, and an improvement in your ability to breathe.
- Keep an eye on your weight and take steps to reduce it if necessary. Discover your “dry” or “ideal” weight and write it down. Your weight without any additional water is referred to as your “dry weight” (fluid). Your objective is to maintain a weight that is within 4 pounds of your dry weight at all times. Always weigh yourself at the same time each day, ideally, first thing in the morning, while wearing clothes that are comparable to what you would normally wear, after you have urinated but before you eat, and on the same scale. Make a note of your weight in a journal or on a calendar. If you gain three pounds in one day or five pounds in one week, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician. Your doctor may want to change some of your medicines.
- Keep an eye on your symptoms. Make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible if you notice any of the following symptoms: Do not wait until your symptoms become so severe that you need treatment in an emergency room before seeking medical attention.
- Always follow your doctor’s instructions while taking medicine. Medication may help enhance the heart’s capacity to pump blood, reduce the stress placed on the heart, slow the course of heart failure, and keep fluid retention at bay. A significant number of medications for heart failure are intended to inhibit the production of noxious hormones. These medications will influence your blood vessels to widen or relax, depending on which they do (thereby lowering your blood pressure).
- Be sure you keep all of your doctor’s visits. At the subsequent appointments, your medical team will check up on you to ensure that you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle and that your heart failure is not growing any worse. Your weight record and list of drugs will be reviewed by your doctor at his or her request. If you have any questions, jot them down and bring the list with you to your scheduled session. Contact your doctor if you have urgent questions. Please let all of your physicians know about your heart failure, the drugs you are taking, and any limitations you may have. In addition, discuss any new drugs recommended by your doctor for your heart with your primary care physician. Maintain accurate records, and take those records with you to each appointment with the doctor.
How can I stop the damage to my heart from becoming worse?
In an attempt to stop any additional damage from occurring to the heart:
- Put an end to your habit of smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Achieve and keep the weight that’s good for you.
- Take steps to get your diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels under control.
- Workout frequently.
- Don’t consume alcohol.
It has been advised that you undergo surgery as well as other treatments to address your heart failure.
If I have heart failure, what medications should I try to stay away from?
Those who suffer from heart failure should steer clear of taking certain drugs, particularly the following categories in particular:
- NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and examples include Motrin and Aleve. Use Tylenol instead of aspirin for relief from aches and pains as well as fever.
- Several drugs may treat irregular heartbeats.
- Calcium channel blockers are the norm (if you have systolic heart failure).
- Certain dietary supplements, such as those that are intended to replace salt, and other growth hormone treatments.
- Antioxidants that are high in sodium (salt).
- decongestants like the brand name drug Sudafed.
Talk to your medical provider about any of these medications that you are currently taking.
You must be familiar with the names of your drugs, the conditions that they treat, the frequency with which you take them, and the timing of when you do so. Maintain a record of the prescriptions you are now taking and bring it with you whenever you go to the doctor. Never stop taking your prescribed drugs without first consulting your healthcare provider. Even if you don’t feel anything, the drugs you take will help your heart pump blood more efficiently by reducing the amount of work it has to do.
What Can I Do to Enhance the Quality of My Life If I Have Heart Failure?
If you suffer from heart failure, there are several actions you may do to enhance the quality of your life. One of them is:
- Consume food that is good for you. You should try to keep your daily intake of sodium (also known as salt) to fewer than 1,500 milligrammes (or 1 1/2 grammes). Consume foods that are rich in fibre. Reduce your consumption of foods that are heavy in sugar, cholesterol, and trans fat. If you need to lose weight, cutting down on the overall number of calories you consume each day can help.
- Workout frequently. Your physician should suggest a regular cardiovascular exercise regimen for you to follow to assist enhance your strength and make you feel better overall. Moreover, it may slow the course of heart failure.
- Don’t overdo it. Be sure you schedule some time for rest throughout the day. It is possible that some actions, such as shovelling and pushing or dragging large things, might make heart failure and associated symptoms even worse.
- Avoid getting any infections in your lungs. Ask your primary care physician about being vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia.
- Always follow your doctor’s instructions while taking medicine. Do not stop taking these until speaking with your primary care physician first.
- If you feel like you need it, get some emotional or psychological help. Heart failure may be challenging for the patient’s family as a whole. If you have questions, contact your doctor or nurse. Only a phone call away are people who can provide you with the emotional support you need, including social workers, psychologists, members of the church, and heart failure support groups. Request the assistance of your physician or nurse in determining the best course of action.
Is There a Possibility That Surgery Might Help Treat Heart Failure?
In cases of heart failure, surgery has the potential to both enhance the heart’s function and prevent any more cardiac damage from occurring. The following methods are utilised:
- Surgery to do a coronary artery bypass using grafts. Bypass surgery is the operation that is performed the most often to treat heart failure that is brought on by coronary artery disease. Those who have heart failure have a higher risk of complications during surgery; however, recent advances in pre-, during-, and post-operative care have helped to lessen these complications and improve patient outcomes.
- Operation on the heart’s valves. Both surgical (sometimes known as “conventional heart valve surgery”) and non-surgical procedures may be used to repair diseased heart valves (balloon valvuloplasty).
- Implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Patients who have not responded to prior therapies and are hospitalised with severe systolic heart failure may be candidates for the left ventricular assist device (LVAD), sometimes known as the “bridge to transplantation.” This apparatus assists your heart in its function of pumping blood throughout your body. It enables you to move about, and you may even go back to your house while you wait for a heart transplant. It is also possible to employ it as a destination treatment to provide long-term assistance for patients who are not candidates for organ transplantation.
- Transplantation of the heart. When a person’s heart failure is so severe that it does not respond to any of the other available medicines, but the person’s health is otherwise excellent, a heart transplant may be considered.
Therapy for Heart Failure Requires a Collaborative Effort
The treatment of heart failure requires the participation of a team, of which you are the most important member. Your cardiologist will take care of all of your medical needs, including the prescription of drugs to treat any other conditions you may have. You will not be able to accomplish success without the assistance of other members of your team, such as nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise experts, and social workers. But, it is incumbent upon YOU to take your prescribed medicines, make necessary adjustments to your diet, maintain a healthy way of life, attend all of your follow-up visits, and participate actively in the treatment process.
Do not wait until your next scheduled visit to bring up anything that seems out of the ordinary with your primary care physician. Make contact with them as soon as possible if you have:
- Gain of weight for no apparent reason (more than 2 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week)
- Increasing swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, or belly, particularly if these areas are affected
- a sense of shortness of breath that worsens with time or occurs more often, particularly if you wake up feeling like you have it.
- Symptoms include nausea and lack of appetite including bloating.
- You are experiencing extreme exhaustion or are having greater difficulty doing your everyday chores.
- An infection of the lungs or a cough that grows progressively worse
- Rapid beating of the heart (above 100 beats per minute, or a rate noted by your doctor)
- Newly developed erratic heartbeat
- Pain or discomfort in the chest that is worse by physical exertion but relieved by rest
- Having difficulty breathing during normal activity or when at rest
- Alterations in the way that you sleep, such as having trouble falling asleep or the sensation that you need to sleep much more than is typical for you.
- a less desire to relieve oneself
- Restlessness, bewilderment
- a persistent feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness
When Should I Seek Immediate Medical Attention?
You should go to the emergency room or contact 911 if you have any of the following:
- Pain in the chest that is sudden, acute, and cannot be explained, and is accompanied by shortness of breath, perspiration, nausea, or weakness
- A rapid heart rate (more than 120 to 150 beats per minute or a rate reported by your doctor), particularly if you are experiencing difficulty breathing
- Experiencing difficulty breathing that does not improve when you rest
- a sudden loss of strength, or the inability to move your arms or legs
- Sudden, severe headache
- Fainting spells
What is the prognosis for those who have been diagnosed with heart failure?
It’s possible that you won’t have to give up the activities you like if you get the treatment you need for your heart failure. Your prognosis, also known as your outlook for the future, will be determined by the symptoms you are experiencing as well as how well you react to therapy and adhere to the treatment plan that has been devised for you.
Everyone who is diagnosed with a chronic condition, such as heart failure, should have a conversation with their family and doctor on their preferences for extended medical care. One technique to make sure that everyone is aware of your preferences is to write them down in an “advance directive” or “living will.” Your preferences on the use of medical procedures to extend your life may be articulated in a living will. If you are unable to make these choices at a later point in time, this paper will have been written while you are fully competent.