• LC&VA

What is heart failure?

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is unable to pump blood round the body properly. Certain conditions such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure, if left untreated, can make the heart muscle become weak or stiff and therefore unable to pump blood effectively.

In the UK there are around 920,000 people that have been diagnosed with heart failure. Heart failure can occur at any age, however is more common in older people; the average age that people are diagnosed with heart failure is 77. This is a long-term condition that usually gets worse over time.


Although it is uncommon for this condition to be cured, the symptoms can often be controlled for a number of years. If the condition is caused by something like a damaged valve, then the valve can be replaced or repaired and the condition may be cured. Lots patients can live for years with this condition! However, not all conditions which lead to heart failure can be cured but the treatments available can help you live longer!

The symptoms that people experience can be different for everyone. If you have acute heart failure then this means that the symptoms will develop quickly, whereas if you have chronic heart failure then the symptoms will develop gradually over time (usually weeks or months).

Here is a list of some of the most common symptoms associated with heart failure:

  • Breathlessness

  • Persistent cough

  • Feeling more tired than normal

  • Fast heart rate

  • Dizziness

  • Swollen ankles or legs

Heart failure is often caused by a number of problems that affect the heart. This can include:

  • Coronary heart disease

  • Cardiomyopathy

  • High blood pressure

  • Arrhythmia

  • Damaged heart valve

  • Birth defects (congenital)

When treating heart failure, the aim is to control the symptoms that the patient is experiencing. Here are some of the most common methods of treatment:

Life style changes

Having a healthy and balanced diet, taking part in regular exercise and quitting smoking. Also reducing stress, losing weight (if overweight) and reducing sodium intake from the diet can all help.

Medication

There is a range of different medications that can be offered to patients. It is common to be on more than one type of medication.

Implants

A device can be placed under the skin to help control your heart rhythm

Surgery

This can include valve repairs, bypass or transplants

Some of the most common risk factors include:


  • High blood pressure

  • Obesity

  • Smoking

  • Poor diet

  • Drug and alcohol abuse

  • Some prescription drugs

  • Diabetes

  • Irregular heart beat

  • Sleep apnea

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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Photo credit Giulio Mazzarini

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