BENGALURU: Heart failure is a condition wherein the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s requirements. Normally, the heart pumps about 5 litre of blood per minute to meet the requirements of our body. Vital organs won’t receive enough blood supply, for example the kidneys, and it can lead to congestion in the lungs. Heart failure does not mean that the heart has failed or completely stopped, it just implies that the heart isn’t working as well as it should.
Ahead of World Heart Day on September 29, it is estimated that 8 to 10 million people in India suffer from heart failure. This number is progressively increasing and needs to be acted upon by taking aggressive preventive measure.
Causes of heart failure
Uncontrolled high blood pressure
Coronary artery disease which leads to heart attacks. Heart attack damages heart muscles and weakens the heart
Cardiomyopathy – It is a disease primarily of the heart muscle, could be due to viral infections, certain drugs, genetic causes and at times no specific cause can be detected
Heart valve disease – Most common causes for this are rheumatic heart disease, connective tissue disease leading to valve prolapse and degenerative diseases.
If the heart does not pump well, at first there are no evident symptoms but as the condition worsens, a person might feel tired or weak and might have breathing issues.
A person who used to walk 5 rounds in the park might complain that he needs to take a rest after three rounds or he finds it strenuous to reach his office which is on the third floor for the last 3 months. The person might become inactive and also have disturbed sleep, may complain that they need to use additional pillows at night as they get more breathless when they try to sleep flat, additionally there might be episodes of rapid and irregular heart beats even while the person is resting.
Their feet, ankles and legs tend to get swollen, which generally becomes worse by evening and is lesser when they wake up in the morning. As the condition gets worse it tends to be there at all times accompanied by distension of the abdomen. These changes are due to fluid accumulation in the body.
Heart failure is a progressive condition and if left untreated can lead to loss of life. More people die of heart failure than cancer, it is the largest contributor of hospitalisations and death in old-age. Some of the other complications are irregular heartbeats, kidney and liver-related problems.
Diet and a healthy lifestyle helps in treating a patient who has suffered from heart attack and also helps in preventing it. This includes daily monitoring of body weight,increase in body weight is the earliest sign of fluid accumulation in our body. Patients with heart failure are encouraged to measure their body weight daily after waking up and passing urine and wearing light clothes. Increase in body weight by 1 kg in two days or 2 kg in a week implies that you need to see your doctor for modifications of the medications. Heart failure patients should consume less than 2 grams of sodium per day, and maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and alcohol regular exercises are some of the ways of treating it.
Challenges faced by a doctor while treating heart failure
Delayed diagnosis is one of the major challenges where the patient comes for treatment when the disease is at an advanced stage. These patients generally don’t respond well to treatment and almost 50 per cent of such patients may not survive even a year. Many patients don’t adhere to the lifestyle changes needed and to the drug regimen prescribed.
Tips for heart failure patients
Be sure to take your medicines and do not skip doses. Inform the doctor about any side-effects from any medicine so it can be changed or doses can be altered. If you feel different and minor worsening of symptoms are noticed, consult your doctor early enough so that hospitalisation can be avoided.
– The author is senior consultant, interventional cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road