Understanding Heart Failure And How You Can Live A Regular Life After It, As Told By Expert
Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle cannot pump blood as well as it should. Conditions such as narrowed arteries or high blood pressure, gradually leave the heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently.
A healthy lifestyle can be helpful for heart failure patients
- Patients with heart failure often feel fatigued
- Heart failure patients must quit alcohol and smoking
- They should monitor their symptoms regularly
The term heart failure can be extremely frightening and it is a condition no one must take lightly, especially because it often occurs along with other life-threatening complications. However, many people who have been diagnosed with this disease continue to lead a happy and normal life with the help of modern technology and medicine paired with healthy lifestyle changes.
Understanding heart failure
Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle cannot pump blood as well as it should. Conditions such as narrowed arteries or high blood pressure, gradually leave the heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently. Patients with heart failure often feel fatigued or experience a decrease in their ability to engage in daily activities. Some of the common symptoms can be shortness of breath or swelling of the legs or ankles.
What are the risk factors
- Although heart failure is on the rise among young adults, older people are more prone to risk
- Those whose parents or other family members have a history of heart diseases are at greater risk
- Having existing heart disorders like congenital heart defect or valvular heart disease
- High blood pressure since the heart has to pump harder in this case
- Excessive consumption of tobacco and alcohol
- Irregular heartbeats
- Sleep apnea or inability to breathe properly while sleeping
Treating heart failure
According to the New York Heart Association Classification (NYHA Class 1-4), heart failure has 4 stages and the treatment varies at different stages. This is because once a patient has progressed to the next stage, it cannot be reversed i.e. once they progress to Stage C, they cannot go back to Stage B or A. Hence, it is important to treat and monitor the disease constantly. In the earlier stages, the treatment consists of medication and lifestyle changes while in the more advanced stages a surgery, heart transplant or device implantation like LVADs (left ventricular assist device) may become necessary depending upon the severity of the condition. An LVAD is a battery-operated mechanical pump which can be surgically implanted for helping the left chamber of the heart pump blood efficiently. It is a viable option for patients who cannot depend upon medication or other management procedures during the advanced stages of heart failure. It can also be an alternative for patients who are unable to undergo a heart transplant due to various factors.
Heart failure: Know the precautionary measures
Since most of the risk factors of heart failure are non-modifiable, it is important to treat and control the modifiable risk factors through the following measures:
- Refrain from consuming any substance that can hamper the mind and body. Therefore, quit smoking and avoid consuming any recreational drugs.
- Alcohol consumption also needs to be monitored closely. Though it is better if one can avoid drinking it, however, limiting the consumption can also be beneficial.
- Engaging in outdoor activities and exercises is extremely crucial for maintaining heart health. However, one must be careful of the kind of exercises their body can sustain.
- Eat a health and well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes.
- It is advisable to limit the intake of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Knowing and monitoring the warning signs and symptoms is also crucial for seeking timely medical intervention.
Maintaining good quality of life is as important as survival for most patients living with chronic, progressive illnesses. People with heart failure can also live an improved quality of life by following their treatment plan and undertaking precautionary measures regularly.
(Dr. Z. S. Meharwal is Director and Coordinator, Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.)
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