Heart failure: Get informed

This cardiovascular disease occurs when the heart can no longer pump blood sufficiently to meet the demands of the body. As the population ages, the percentage of the population with heart failure increases.

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Heart failure

Two types of heart failure

There are two types of heart failure: systolic heart failure (systole is the contraction phase of the heart) and diastolic heart failure (diastole is the rest phase of the heart). Systolic heart failure is the most common form and corresponds to a defect in blood expulsion while diastolic heart failure corresponds to a defect in the ventricular filling and usually occurs in the elderly. In some cases, the two forms of heart failure may be associated.

The causes of heart failure

The most common causes of heart failure are high blood pressure and a history of myocardial infarctions (heart attacks). The electrocardiogram (ECG) is commonly used to identify cardiac abnormalities and to guide the diagnosis, which is confirmed with an echocardiogram.

Symptoms of heart failure

Heart failure manifests itself in the following symptoms:

- Dyspnea: this is the main symptom of heart failure and is experienced with a shortness of breath (or labored breathing), commonly with effort. In more serious cases, dyspnea is also present at rest.
- Fatigue: an individual with heart failure will experience constant and significant fatigue. Since during heart failure the heart delivers less blood to the muscles, the supply of nutrients and oxygen is reduced, causing significant fatigue even after a small effort.
- Heart palpitations
- Edema: swelling of certain parts of the body such as legs, ankles, liver (hepatomegaly) are common characteristic signs of heart failure.
- Weight Gain: significant, rapid, and unexplained weight gain.
- Coughing episodes.

Treatments for heart failure

The management of heart failure includes drug treatment and the implementation of dietary measures, taking into account the stage of heart failure.

The severity of heart failure is assessed using the New York Heart Association (NYHA) classification:
- Stage I: absence of symptoms and no limitations in the performance of daily activities;
- Stage II: absence of discomfort at rest, but appearance of symptoms during physical activity;
- Stage III: absence of discomfort at rest, but even slight physical activity leads to significant discomfort; and
- Stage IV: severe limitation with symptoms at rest.

The treatment of heart failure includes vasodilators, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta-blockers that will reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

The patient should also follow lifestyle and dietary rules by reducing the risk factors associated with heart failure. Quitting smoking and alcohol is essential. The patient should also follow a low-sodium diet (low in salt) and participate in regular physical activity, adapted to their condition and the body's ability to adapt to demands. In the most serious cases, a heart transplant (aka heart transplantation) may be considered.

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