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World Heart Day: Here's Why Irreversible Diseases Such As Heart Failure Are On The Rise

World Heart Day, observed on 29th September every year creates awareness about the importance of a healthy heart.

World Heart Day: Heres Why Irreversible Diseases Such As Heart Failure Are On The Rise

World Heart Day is observed om 29 September every year

Heart failure is a chronic condition which occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood sufficiently to meet the metabolic demands of the tissues in the body. The prevalence of this condition is on the rise due an increase in coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and rheumatic heart disease. Apart from non-modifiable factors like age, gender and genetics, factors such as high blood pressure and sedentary lifestyles can also increase risk. Though heart failure is common among the elderly, there is a rise among young adults as well due to these risk factors.

Heart failure develops over time as the heart's pumping action grows weaker the body tries to compensate for this with hormonal and other mechanisms. The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association classifies this into 4 stages. This is because once a patient has progressed to the next stage, it cannot be reversed that is once they progress to Stage C, they cannot go back to Stage B or A. Hence heart failure is known as an irreversible disease.

Following are some common factors that can increase the risk of heart failure:

1. Lifestyle and food habits:

It plays an important role in managing the risk of heart failure. The last few years have brought about a significant change in food and lifestyle choices. Amidst the pandemic, most people have been following a sedentary lifestyle with limited physical activity. This coupled with unhealthy eating habits can lead to obesity, which is one of the primary risk factors for heart failure.

Advice: Healthy food and lifestyle choices are a must. One must avoid smoking and alcohol and exercise for at least 20 minutes daily. Apart from that, oily, sugary, high cholesterol food must be avoided. One must include wholesome grains, green vegetables, and omega 3-rich foods in the diet. It is also important to manage a healthy weight to avoid the problem of obesity. If the Body Mass Index (BMI) is higher than it should be, the heart is most likely to suffer.

2. Stress:

Mental stress can often trigger the symptoms of heart failure. Long, stressful working hours and lack of proper sleep are on the rise and often expose the body to elevated levels of stress hormones. It can also put pressure on the heart leading to the problem of blood clots that increases the risk of heart failure. Depression, which is caused by high mental stress, is also directly linked with heart failure.

Advice: Ensuring mental well-being through meditation, yoga and proper sleep can reduce the chances of heart failure. One can even seek help from counsellors or take medication to reduce stress.

3. High blood pressure:

High blood pressure is most commonly linked to heart failure. It is also known as hypertension which can damage the arteries and force the heart to work harder to pump blood. This causes swelling in the left ventricle, increasing the risk of heart failure.

Advice: One must keep a regular check on blood pressure and consume a diet that helps reduce hypertension. Exercising regularly also helps in managing this condition. Even a small reduction in sodium and caffeine content can reduce blood pressure and improve heart health.

4. Diabetes:

Heart failure is very common in diabetic patients. Diabetes causes hardening of the coronary arteries or atherosclerosis that increases the risk of heart failure. The coronary arteries are responsible for supplying oxygen and nutrition to the heart. Once they become clogged, the heart muscle gets damaged.

Advice: It is important to monitor and manage the blood sugar level along with body weight to control diabetes. It is important to take medications as prescribed to control sugar levels in normal range.

5. Heart muscle disease (dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) or inflammation (myocarditis):

Any damage to the heart muscle due to drug or alcohol use, viral infections or other reasons can increase the risk of heart failure.

Advice: Maintain a heart healthy lifestyle by consuming a healthy dieting, indulging in regular physical activity, avoiding stress and getting adequate sleep. Avoid habits such as consumption of alcohol and smoking.

6. Coronary artery disease:

This happens when cholesterol and fatty deposits build up in the heart's arteries, reducing the flow of blood to the heart muscle. It can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack in case the arteries are completely blocked.

Advice: Maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle.

Heart failure can be managed or treated depending upon the stage of the disease as the severity increases with every stage. In the earlier stages, the treatment consists of medication and lifestyle changes while in the more advanced stages a surgery, transplant or device implantation can work effectively. Maintaining heart healthy lifestyle is also equally important for living a life beyond heart failure.

(Dr Vishal Rastogi, Cardiac Sciences Additional Director, Head- Advanced heart failure clinic, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute)

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