Heart failure

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is serious and results from various heart conditions. Heart failure is characterised by the heart’s inability to pump blood as well as it should be able to. Therefore, blood supply to the rest of the body is inadequate, ultimately resulting in the disruption of major bodily functions. Additionally, blood cannot carry enough oxygen or nutrients to the body and as a result, waste is not properly disposed of and fluid accumulates in some parts of the body. There are two types of heart failure: systolic, when myocardium cannot pump blood and expel it from the heart; and the diastolic, when the muscles of the heart are rigid and do not fill with blood.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

The symptoms of heart failure vary according to each person. In the initial phase there are usually no symptoms, but if it progresses, the symptoms may worsen. The main symptoms include:

  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling in the ankles
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Loss of appetite

What causes heart failure?

The most common causes of heart failure are coronary heart disease, such as angina pectoris or myocardial infarction. High blood pressure is also another common cause of this disease, as well as excessive alcohol consumption. The following can also result in heart failure:

Can heart failure be prevented?

Heart failure can be prevented by making serious lifestyle changes that will reduce cardiovascular risk factors. These changes include:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Eating foods low in fat and cholesterol
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Doing regular exercise
  • Getting enough sleep and rest
  • Reducing your salt intake

What is the treatment?

There is no certain cure for heart failure, and treatment will depend on the severity of your condition. Treatment will aim to increase your lifespan and may include taking medication to reduce clotting, reduce cholesterol levels, improve heart function or to reduce sodium levels in the blood. Surgery may also be needed, such as coronary bypass surgery. It may also be necessary to have a pacemaker or ICD fitted to control heart rhythm. The last stage for treating heart failure would be a heart transplant, but this is only done if all other treatments have failed and there is a viable heart from a donor. A large part of treatment is preventative, by adopting healthy lifestyle changes.

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