Don't Let Your Heart Fail You
Each year more than 500,000 people in the United States are diagnosis with heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure. Some estimate that number is closer to 700,000 per year. Heart failure is very common with an estimated 5 million Americans suffering from the condition. Since 1979, the deaths related to heart failure have doubled, making it the only major cardiovascular disorder on the rise. When it comes to dollars spent on research, heart failure received $28.7 million (remember it effects 5 million) compared to lung cancer, effecting 390,000 people, which received $132 million. So what exactly is heart failure and how can we delay the progression of this disease?
The term heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped or is about to stop working, rather it means the heart is not pumping enough blood to supply the body’s needs. This can be due to a heart attack or high blood pressure, which over time leaves the heart weaker and not able to pump as affectively as in the past. Many people do not know they have heart failure, as its signs and symptoms mimic those of aging and getting older. Heart failure is a progressive disease that develops over a long period of time, years in most cases.
Although possible for heart failure to begin at any age, most often it is most common in people over the age of 65 years. This article will focus on adult heart failure, risk, diagnosis and treatments. Risk factors that can contribute to heart failure are high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, enlarged heart, coronary heart disease (CHD) and history of heart murmurs.
Sometimes the heart does not fill with enough blood, known as right side heart failure. In other cases, the heart fills as it should but cannot pump the blood out resulting in left sided heart failure. In some people, it is possible to have both. Either way, the body does not receive the oxygen rich blood that it needs. Results of this include, swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, liver, abdomen, and the veins in the neck. It may also cause shortness of breath and fatigue.
Heart failure is diagnosed with a number of tests. One in particular is called an echocardiogram or “echo”. This tells what the heart’s ejection fraction (EF) is. The ejection fraction is a measurement of how well the heart is pumping. A healthy heart has an EF of 60 percent or greater. If the EF is 40 percent or less, then heart failure is suspected.
Currently, there is not a cure for heart failure. Treatments such as medications and lifestyle changes can help people who suffer from the condition to live a longer more active life. Experts now recommend a combination of three to four drugs to treat heart failure. Digoxin is given to help the heart pump more easily and improve circulation while diuretics, sometimes referred to as “water pills” help remove extra fluid thus reduce swelling. Two newer classes of medications known as ACE inhibitors and beta blockers have been shown to slow disease progression and work by blocking certain stress hormones in the body believed to be responsible for the progression of heart failure, according to the Heart Failure Society of America.
One new approved treatment for heart failure is cardiac rehabilitation. Henry County Medical Center anticipates Medicare approval to treat heart failure patients in the near future. This program is designed to assist people with a heart failure diagnosis to better manage their condition through education on heart failure, how it affects you and how to better manage it. Each patient has a customized plan specific to him or her and the individual condition. “We are so excited to be able to offer this program to people in our area”, says Christie Glass, RN, HCMC cardiac rehab charge nurse.
“We know there are so many who suffer from heart failure and until now, Medicare did not approve cardiac rehab for this diagnosis. Now that they are, we anticipate being able to help and support so many people who otherwise were limited.”
With early diagnosis and new treatments of heart failure, people are now able to continue enjoying their everyday activities and a happier life. To learn more about heart failure or cardiac rehabilitation, visit our website at www.hcmc-tn.org or call Cardiac Rehab directly at 731-644-8558.
Here’s to your Health!
-Angie Gregson Dotson, RN, BSN Community Educator
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