What Is Heart Failure
Heart failure doesnât mean the heart has stopped working. Rather, it means that the heart works less efficiently than normal. Due to various possible causes, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart canât pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs.
The chambers of the heart may respond by stretching to hold more blood to pump through the body or by becoming stiff and thickened. This helps to keep the blood moving, but the heart muscle walls may eventually weaken and become unable to pump as efficiently. The kidneys may respond by causing the body to retain fluid and salt. If fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs, the body becomes congested. Congestive heart failure is the term used to describe the condition.
Can Heart Failure Be Prevented
You may be able to prevent or delay heart failure if you:
- Work with your provider to manage any health conditions that increase your risk of developing heart failure
- Make healthy changes in your eating, exercise, and other daily habits to help prevent heart disease
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Symptoms Of Heart Failure
Heart failure usually develops gradually, so its signs are much less dramatic than those of heart attack, and it may go unidentified and untreated until it reaches an advanced stage. The most common symptoms often confused with the flu or other conditions include these:
Fatigue. Muscles that don’t get enough oxygen tire easily. People with early heart failure may notice that they’re less able to exercise. As the condition progresses, even simple tasks like doing dishes or getting dressed may be exhausting.
Edema. As the heart’s pumping ability declines, lymph fluid seeps from vessels laden with backed-up blood and accumulates in the lungs and other body tissues. The effects are most noticeable in the feet and ankles, where blood pools because the heart can no longer overcome the pull of gravity. The abdomen may also become distended with fluid. These symptoms are so common in heart failure that it was once known as “congestive heart failure.” That term isn’t used much any more because physicians recognize that heart failure may occur without lung congestion and swelling.
Shortness of breath. As fluid builds up in the lungs, it becomes harder to breathe, especially while lying down.
Persistent cough. Again, fluid in the lungs is responsible. The cough is likely to be worse when lying down and may produce frothy, blood-tinged mucus.
Rapid heart rate. Heart palpitations may occur as the heart pumps faster in an effort to compensate for its weakened contractions.
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Mood And Heart Failure
Some people find it very difficult to live with the uncertainty of having heart failure. Learning about your condition and getting involved in making decisions about your treatment will help you feel more in control and may help to relieve anxiety. Its also important to discuss your worries with your family and close friends and your heart failure team so they can support you.
Stress affects different people in different ways. People who dont manage their stress well may turn to unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or snacking on unhealthy foods.
Knowing what triggers the stress can help you to tackle the problem. Finding healthy ways of coping with stress and learning to relax can help you manage your heart failure. Read more about coping with stress.
Signs Of Heart Disease May Be More Subtle In Women Than Men
Symptoms of heart disease the country’s No. 1 killer may be more subtle and varied in women than in men, according to a review publishedThursdayin the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Understanding the differences in symptoms is particularly important for women. Corrine Jurgens, an author of the review and an associate professor at the Connell School of Nursing at Boston College, said that women tend to be diagnosed with heart disease later in life than men, when they may have other underlying conditions that could make identifying subtle symptoms of heart disease much more difficult.
What’s more, a 2020 report, also published in Circulation, found a 10-year decline in awareness among women that heart disease is indeed their biggest health threat.
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Fluid Buildup In Body Tissues
When your heart cannot pump blood effectively, blood begins to back up in your blood vessels. Fluid from this backed up blood may accumulate in your body tissues. Many people find out they have heart failure after they notice swelling in their feet, ankles, legs or abdomen . Women are more likely than men to have swelling in their ankles and other extremities as a result of heart failure . This swelling may lead to weight gain, and you may notice that you need to urinate more often .
- When your heart cannot pump blood effectively, blood begins to back up in your blood vessels.
- Many people find out they have heart failure after they notice swelling in their feet, ankles, legs or abdomen .
How Do I Manage My Heart Failure
Its important to follow the advice from your doctor and take the medicines youre prescribed. Making changes to your lifestyle is another way to improve your health. Changes you could try are:
- keeping active which has been proven to boost energy and improve sleep and quality of life
- keeping to a healthy weight and diet this will help your overall health and prevent extra strain on your heart
- limiting how much alcohol you drink – lowering your chance of getting abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure and diseases such as stroke, liver problems and some cancers
- stopping smoking and using other tobacco products – reducing your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases
- watching the amount of fluid you have each day if advised by your medical team
- weighing yourself regularly sudden weight gain may mean too much fluid is building up in your body and will need treated.
Living a healthier lifestyle can be hard at first, but its important for your overall quality of life. Visit our healthy living hub to start eating healthier and manage things like smoking and stress today.
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What Is Heart Disease In Women
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and one in four women die from it each year. And while heart disease does affect as many women as it does men, the symptoms of heart disease in women can be different. At Baptist Health, we understand that the disease often goes undiagnosed in women. Thats why we work with our patients to help them understand its causes and learn to look for signs.
Medical History And Physical Exam
To diagnose heart failure, your doctor will first ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history. While diagnosing heart failure, your doctor will want to know:
- If you have any other health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, angina, high blood pressure or other heart problems
- If you drink alcohol and how much you drink
- What medications you are taking
- Your doctor will also perform a complete physical exam. Your doctor will look for signs of heart failure as well as any other illnesses that may have caused your heart to weaken.
- Learn more about physical examination
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Stages Of Heart Failure
In 2001, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology described the “Stages of Heart Failure.” These stages, which were updated in 2005, will help you understand that heart failure is often a progressive condition and can worsen over time. They will also help you understand why a new medication was added to your treatment plan and may help you understand why lifestyle changes and other treatments are needed.
The stages classified by the AHA and ACC are different than the New York Heart Association clinical classifications of heart failure that rank patients as class I-II-III-IV, according to the degree of symptoms or functional limits. Ask your doctor what stage of heart failure you are in.
Check the table below to see if your therapy matches what the AHA and ACC recommend. Note that you cannot go backward in stage, only forward.
The table below outlines a basic plan of care that may or may not apply to you, based on the cause of your heart failure and your special needs. Ask your doctor to explain therapies that are listed if you do not understand why you are or are not receiving them.
The New York Heart Association clinical classifications of heart failure rank people as class I-II-III-IV, according to the degree of symptoms or functional limits. You can ask your doctor if you want to know what stage of heart failure youâre in.
When To Contact A Doctor
Its never too early to contact a doctor to discuss your risk of heart disease. In fact, the new primary prevention guidelines say that the earlier the risk factors for heart disease are prevented or treated, the less likely you are to develop heart disease later in life.
So, if youre concerned about your risk of heart disease, make an appointment to discuss how you can prevent this highly preventable condition. You can connect with a cardiologist in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.
If youre having any symptoms at all, its very important to discuss these with your doctor, as heart disease can masquerade in many different ways.
Its easy to dismiss many warning signs of heart disease like fatigue, indigestion, and shortness of breath as just an ordinary part of life or mild illness. But because a heart attack can happen suddenly, its important not to ignore any potential warning signs.
If you have any of the above symptoms of heart disease, especially if you also have risk factors, contact a doctor.
- the presence of specific cholesterol markers
- other specialized lipid tests
Your doctor may order other tests, too. For example:
A doctor might also suggest a continuous EKG or ambulatory arrhythmia monitor, where you wear a device that constantly records your hearts electrical signals. Depending on your symptoms, you might wear this device for a few days or a few weeks.
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Is There A Treatment For Heart Failure
There are more treatment options available for heart failure than ever before. Tight control over your medications and lifestyle, coupled with careful monitoring, are the first steps. As the condition progresses, doctors specializing in the treatment of heart failure can offer more advanced treatment options.
The goals of treating heart failure are to try to keep it from getting worse , to ease symptoms, and to improve quality of life.
Some common types of medicines used to treat it are:
- Aldosterone antagonists
- Selective sinus node inhibitors
- SGLT2 inhibitor
Your doctor may also recommend a program called cardiac rehabilitation to help you exercise safely and keep up a heart-healthy lifestyle. It usually includes workouts that are designed just for you, education, and tips to lower your chance of heart trouble, like quitting smoking or changing your diet.
Cardiac rehab also offers emotional support. You can meet people like you who can help you stay on track.
Congestive Heart Failure In Women
Congestive heart failure is one of the most common cardiac illnesses. There are approximately 5 million Americans currently living with heart failure 500,000 additional patients are diagnosed each year. This has an enormous impact on health care spending.
Congestive heart failure refers to a failure of the heart to effectively pump blood forward to the rest of the body. This is due to either a weakness of the heart muscle or a stiffness of the heart muscle , or a combination of the two. Heart failure does not actually mean that the heart stops functioning completely, nor is it the same thing as a heart attack.
There are several causes of heart failure, including coronary disease or prior heart attacks, hypertension, and some types of valvular heart disease. Other causes include toxins , prolonged rapid heart rate, obesity and certain infections . Some patients, however, do not have an identifiable cause of heart failure the term for this is idiopathic cardiomyopathy.
Regardless of the type of heart failure, the pressures in the heart increase due to a lack of forward blood flow. The kidneys begin to respond by retaining sodium and water, and fl uid begins building up throughout the body. This results in several of the symptoms of heart failure, including shortness of breath , swelling in the arms, legs or abdomen, and weight gain. Some people also experience other symptoms such as fatigue, decrease in exercise capability, dizziness or depression.
Epidemiology Of Heart Failure In Women
According to the 2017 American Heart Association Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, heart failure prevalence has increased to 6.5 million in Americans 20 years of age.1 By 2030, the incidence of HF is projected to rise by 46%, affecting more than 8 million individuals. Heart failure affects both genders equally and is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality.
Whereas the lifetime risk of developing coronary heart disease is 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women, by the age of 40, men and women have equal lifetime risks of developing HF. At 40 years of age, the lifetime risk of developing HF for both men and women is 1 in 5.2,3 At 80 years of age, the remaining lifetime risk for developing new HF remains at 20% for men and women even in the face of a much shorter life expectancy.2 Occurrence of HF increases with advancing age, and women at older age are at greater risk than men.4
Incidence rates of HF in men approximately double with each 10-year increase in age from 65 to 85 years however, the HF incidence rate triples for women between ages 65 to 74 and 75 to 84 years.2 Likewise, at younger ages, the cumulative prevalence of HF is higher in men compared to women, but it equalizes between the two genders after age 80.3,5,6
How Is Cardiovascular Disease In Women Diagnosed
Women who are concerned about their heart health can schedule a visit to Yale New Haven Health Womens Heart & Vascular Program. At their first appointment, they will fill out a questionnaire and have a discussion with their doctor about their medical history, their diet and exercise habits, and any symptoms they may be experiencing
We want them to know that theyre being listened tothat they tell us their symptoms and we take them seriously, Dr. Freed says. The goal, she says, is to give women a diagnosis as soon as possible. Either they end up finding that their cardiovascular health is good, she says, or we find risk factors that need to be managed, or we find coronary artery disease, or an arrhythmia that needs to be treated.
Doctors also check patients blood pressure and their cholesterol and blood glucose levels . Because abnormal levels are such important risk factors for heart disease, it is important for patients to know what these test results mean.
We try to empower women to take control of their health and to know what their numbers are so that they can be treated more effectively,” says Dr. Freed.
If a doctor suspects heart disease, he or she will order tests that may include:
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Surgical Options To Treat Underlying Causes Of Heart Failure
- Coronary artery bypass graft to prevent and treat heart failure caused by blocked arteries. During bypass surgery, blood vessels taken from another part of the body usually the leg are attached to the clogged artery to create a detour around the blockage. This is conventionally done through open-heart surgery, but some patients may be candidates for minimally invasive CABG, an alternative offered at UCSF.
- Angioplasty, another treatment for blocked arteries. A thin flexible tube called a catheter is inserted through a small incision in the groin or neck into a blood vessel. In one procedure, a balloon is introduced through the catheter into the center of a blocked blood vessel. When the balloon is inflated, the blockage material is compressed back against the walls of the artery. A small metal device, called a stent, may be inserted through the catheter to serve as a permanent barrier to keep the plaque compressed. In another type of procedure, instruments are introduced through the catheter to remove the plaque.
- Implantation of pacemakers and other devices such as artificial heart valves
- Repairing congenital heart defects
Surgical treatments for heart failure itself include:
Congestive Heart Failure: Prevention Treatment And Research
Congestive heart failure is a serious condition in which the heart doesnt pump blood as efficiently as it should. Despite its name, heart failure doesnt mean that the heart has literally failed or is about to stop working. Rather, it means that the heart muscle has become less able to contract over time or has a mechanical problem that limits its ability to fill with blood. As a result, it cant keep up with the bodys demand, and blood returns to the heart faster than it can be pumped outit becomes congested, or backed up. This pumping problem means that not enough oxygen-rich blood can get to the bodys other organs.
The body tries to compensate in different ways. The heart beats faster to take less time for refilling after it contractsbut over the long run, less blood circulates, and the extra effort can cause heart palpitations. The heart also enlarges a bit to make room for the blood. The lungs fill with fluid, causing shortness of breath. The kidneys, when they dont receive enough blood, begin to retain water and sodium, which can lead to kidney failure. With or without treatment, heart failure is often and typically progressive, meaning it gradually gets worse.
More than 5 million people in the United States have congestive heart failure. Its the most common diagnosis in hospitalized patients over age 65. One in nine deaths has heart failure as a contributing cause.
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