Heart Failure: Risk Factors and How You Can Manage It

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Currently, there is a prevalence in the heart failure cases in our country. This is due to the rise in coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and rheumatic heart disease. Apart from non-modifiable factors like age, gender and genetics, factors such as high blood pressure and sedentary lifestyles can also increase the risks.

Causes and Risk factors:

Though heart failure is common among the elderly, there is a rise among young adults as well due to risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. Apart from this, other factors like congenital heart disease, history of a heart attack or heart disease can also increase risk.

Warning signs:

• Lack of energy and feeling of weakness

• Shortness of breath

• Swelling in the feet and legs

• Difficulty in sleeping due to breathing problems

• Frequent urination at night

Management:

Heart failure is a progressive disease which develops over time as the heart’s pumping action grows weaker. According to the New York Heart Association Classification (NYHA Class 1-4), heart failure can be classified into 4 stages. Stage 1 and Stage 2 are considered to be the pre-heart failure phase, Stage 3 refers to heart failure patients who had or currently have symptoms of the disease and Stage 4 refers to patients with advanced symptoms of heart failure. While heart failure has no permanent cure, it can be managed effectively through lifestyle changes, therapy and medical procedures such as LVAD implantation and heart transplant.

Treatment:

Heart failure can be managed or treated depending upon the stage of the disease as the severity increases with every stage. In the earlier stages, the treatment consists of medication and lifestyle changes while in the more advanced stages a surgery, transplant or device implantation can work effectively.

Advanced heart failure patients have a variety of treatments available to them- surgeries, implantable devices such as pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) and therapies. A heart transplant or an LVAD are often considered in case of end-stage heart failure when the other options fail. Undergoing a transplant is dependent upon some external factors which may be beyond our control such as the availability of a donor, increasing number of patients for transplants and the patient’s medical condition.

In such cases, technologically advanced procedures such as LVADs can be a feasible alternative for patients. LVAD or left ventricular assist device is a battery-operated mechanical pump which helps the left and largest chamber of the heart pump blood.

Prevention:

Maintaining a good quality of life is also equally important for patients living with chronic, progressive illnesses. Some of these measures can also help in managing heart failure:

• Quit smoking, avoid consuming drugs

• Engage in outdoor activities and exercise

• Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet

• Know and monitor the warning signs and symptoms

(Author Dr Vishal Rastogi is Additional Director, Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute)

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