Eight important things to know about heart failure

In the last few months, many people have started to prioritise their heart health. Amid surge in cases of heart ailments and heart attacks, it is important to know exactly what impacts the heart negatively, and what can be done to keep it healthy.

Dr Ganesh Nallur Shivu, senior interventional cardiologist at Kauvery Hospitals Electronic City (Bengaluru) addresses eight important aspects of heart health and what people should absolutely know. Read on.

1. What is heart failure?

The heart’s function is to pump blood to all parts of the body, including vital organs like the brain, kidney, etc. When the heart fails to deliver enough blood supply to these organs, it is termed as heart failure, says the doctor.

2. What are the symptoms and signs?

Common symptoms are difficulty in breathing on walking or other activities, swelling in the legs or abdomen, fatigue and lack of energy.

3. Who can get heart failure?

According to Dr Shivu, heart failure usually occurs in patients with a previous history of heart attacks, angioplasty or coronary artery bypass grafting. Uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes for a long time can also result in heart failure.

“Heart failure can also occur in young patients following a viral illness and this is termed as viral myocarditis or in patients with rheumatic heart disease (valvular disease causing heart failure).”

4. What are the common tests done for diagnosis?

The doctor usually performs an ECG, echocardiogram and blood tests. The echocardiogram is an ultrasound examination of the heart that helps determine its functional capacity (usually expressed as left ventricular ejection fraction) and also the functioning of the different valves in the heart (Mitral, aortic, tricuspid and pulmonary).

Heart failure usually occurs in patients with a previous history of heart attacks. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Blood tests are done to determine other causes that could mimic heart failure like anemia, kidney failure, liver failure and thyroid problems. After heart failure is diagnosed, the doctor may consider doing a coronary angiogram to look for blockages in the arteries.

5. What is the treatment?

The doctor will prescribe medications to get rid of excess fluid (diuretics or water tablets) and other medications to help the recovery of the heart function (ACE inhibitors, AT2 antagonists and beta blockers).

6. What are the other treatment options?

The doctor may consider treatment for the cause of heart failure. This may include coronary angioplasty, coronary artery bypass grafting and valve replacement. There are also special kinds of pacemakers (cardiac resynchronisation therapy), which improve symptoms and prognosis in patients. In extreme cases, left ventricular assist devices and heart transplantation will be considered.

7. What should patients do to help themselves?

* The patient should ensure they take the medications prescribed.
* They should undertake regular exercise like walking after consultation with their doctor.
* They should reduce their daily salt intake.
* They should restrict the amount of fluid intake per day as suggested by the doctor.
* They should regularly follow-up with their doctor to ensure there has not been any deterioration in their heart function.
* They must seek urgent medical help if their symptoms worsen.

8. What is the prognosis?

“The prognosis of heart failure can be worse than some cancers. It, therefore, is very important to ensure patients take prompt treatment and follow the advice of their doctor in order to improve look term outlook,” the doctor concludes.

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