Heart failure is one of the most under-diagnosed heart diseases in our country, contributing to a high number of death rates. The National Heart Failure Registry recently revealed its one-year data, which shows that close to 17 percent of patients die within 90 days of being diagnosed with heart failure. These high death rates are comparable to mortality associated with cancers of the breast and cervix.
There is lot of ambiguity when it comes to understanding heart failure. The disease is often confused with heart attack, or its symptoms are ignored as signs of old age or other diseases. Currently, it's the leading cause of mortality and repeat hospitalisations amongst all CVDs, with close to 10 million patients in India, Dr Sandeep Seth, Professor of Cardiology, AIIMS, New Delhi told IANSlife.
What is Heart Failure?
Dr Seth explains, heart failure is a chronic and progressive disease in which the heart muscle weakens or stiffens over time, making it difficult for the heart to pump normally. This leads to symptoms like shortness of breath, need for elevated pillows to breath properly while lying down, swelling in the ankles, legs and abdomen, sudden weight gain and constant tiredness or fatigue.
What causes Heart Failure?
Several comorbid conditions and risk factors can cause heart failure. A prior heart attack is one of the key reasons. Sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, stress, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, drug usage etc., that leads to lifestyle diseases, increases the risk of developing heart failure in the future. Dr Seth lists the factors.
- Hypertension or high blood pressure makes the heart work harder than it must. Over time, this puts pressure on the heart muscle responsible for the pumping action
- Coronary artery disease: Narrowed arteries limit the supply of oxygen-rich blood. The heart pumps harder to meet the need of the limited blood flow resulting in weakened heart muscle
- Heart attack: Heart attack and Heart Failure are not similar. Heart attack is a sudden cardiac event that has a direct effect on the basic functioning of the heart. A prior heart attack can majorly cause damaged and mean that the heart will never be able to pump as effectively as it did earlier, leading to Heart Failure - Diabetes: Chronic condition like diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease which in turn increases risk of acute heart failure
- Cardiomyopathy: Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle caused due to alcohol consumption and/or smoking or drug abuse or other yet to be discovered causes
- Obesity: Being overweight increases risk for abnormal heart function and puts one at the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes etc. In the long run, excessive fat deposition can affect the flow of blood through heart muscle, leading to heart failure - Heart Valves disease: In this ailment, one or more of the valves in your heart doesn't work properly. This can cause the blood flow through your heart to your body to be disrupted and cause various complications in your body which can lead to heart failure.
- Irregular heartbeats: Abnormal heart rhythms, especially if they are very frequent and fast, weakens the heart muscle and could cause heart failure
It's advisable to adopt an overall healthy lifestyle. One should exercise on a regular basis, refrain from smoking, drinking or drug abuse and eat healthy and nutritious meals. People should also develop a habit of regular health screening to ensure that any possible heart disease could be diagnosed at an early stage, to ensure timely treatment.