Never say it’s too late to manage heart failure
If you have congestive heart failure, you’re not alone. About 5.7 million Americans are living with it today. It’s one of the most common reasons people ages 65 and older go to the hospital.
Heart failure doesn’t mean your heart is not working at all. It actually means that it’s not working as well as it should. Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Signs and symptoms of heart failure include: • Shortness of breath. • Swelling in the legs, ankles and/or belly. • Sudden weight gain. • Fatigue. • Confusion or can’t think clearly.
Heart failure symptoms usually develop over weeks and months as your heart becomes weaker and less able to pump the blood that your body needs. Heart failure usually results in an enlarged heart.
What causes heart failure? The most common cause is coronary artery disease. This happens when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle become narrowed by buildup of fatty deposits called plaque. Other common risk factors include:
• Past heart attack has done some damage to the heart muscle.
• Heart defects present since birth. • High blood pressure. • Heart valve disease. • Diseases of the heart muscle.
• Infection of the heart and/or heart valves.
• Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias). • Being overweight. • Diabetes. • Thyroid problems. • Alcohol or drug abuse. • Certain types of chemotherapy.
It’s never too late to manage heart failure, and left untreated heart failure can get worse. It’s very important to follow the treatment plan developed by your cardiologist and dedicate yourself to adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Your cardiologist may give you medicine to strengthen your heart and water pills to help your body get rid of excess fluid. Not taking your medications as directed will likely lead to a trip to the emergency room.
Lifestyle changes may include:
• Following a low-sodium diet.
• Quitting smoking, you smoke.
• Weighing yourself daily to check for weight gain caused by increased fluid.
• Tracking your daily fluid intake.
• Monitoring your blood pressure daily.
• Avoiding or limiting alcohol and caffeine.
• Losing or maintaining your weight based on your doctor’s recommendations. • Being physically active. While most of the time heart failure can’t be cured, managing it is critical. Even if you’ve been ignoring signs and symptoms for years, there’s time to get back on track. Making if simple, healthy changes to your lifestyle and taking your medications can help you feel better and live a better quality of life.
Learn your heart age and risk for heart disease with Anne Arundel Medical Center’s FREE heart health profiler at askAAMC.org/ Heart. Complete the profiler by March 30 for your chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card.
Juan Cordero, MD, cardiologist with AAMG Cardiology Specialists in Easton. To reach his office call 410-822-2440.