Heart Failure – Causes, Risks and Symptoms

In honor of February being Heart Failure Awareness Month, we’re going to walk through what heart failure is, what causes it, and how it can be managed.

People hear heart failure and understandably get scared but let’s go through it bit by bit and hopefully alleviate some of that fear. First off, heart failure doesn’t mean your heart stopped beating. What’s happened instead is that the heart has become weaker meaning it can’t pump enough blood for the body. A range of symptoms can emerge shortness of breath, intense fatigue, coughing or wheezing, swelling in feet, ankles, and legs, confusion, dizziness, and weight gain. It’s a serious long-term condition with symptoms that usually develop over time, but you can still live a full life with the right treatment plan and life changes.

So, what are the causes and risk factors of heart failure? The most common causes are high blood pressure and coronary artery disease (CAD). For more on high blood pressure check out our previous blog on how to lower and manage it. Coronary artery disease is when arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrow due to buildups of fatty deposits. Blood has less room to travel and so the heart starts to struggle with pumping over time eventually leading to heart failure.

Other common risk factors include obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, sleep apnea, and drug abuse. You’re also at risk if you’ve previously had a heart attack, heart disease, a heart defect, or an infection of the heart or valves. If your heart has been previously compromised in some capacity, it’s best to speak to a medical professional about preventative care and how at-risk you are.

Now, with all this talk of symptoms and risk you’re probably wondering what can I do to help and treat this. Treatment usually comes in the form of medication that strengthens the heart and water pills to help your body get rid of excess fluids that have built up due to the condition. Your doctor will also make some recommendations such as: lowering your sodium intake, providing you with oxygen for at-home use, lifestyle changes, or a cardiac device. When it comes to self-management the best thing you can do is listen to your healthcare professional and monitor any changes. Learning you suffering from heart failure can be incredibly scary and nerve-wracking but know that there are resources and treatments available to you. If you want to learn more about heart failure you can check out heart.org or if you want more general information on health and the healthcare system, please check out our other blog posts.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya

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