Do you know what condition affects over five million people in the United States? Heart Failure. This condition develops over time, making it hard to detect if individuals don’t receive annual checkups. At present, there is no cure for heart failure, but there are ways to treat it. Medicine and heart-healthy lifestyle changes can help those living with heart failure lead longer and more active lives.
What is Heart Failure?
The term heart failure can sound misleading, as it infers that the heart has stopped working. That is not the case. When using the term heart failure, it means that the heart is not pumping at the capacity required to meet the body’s need for oxygen and blood.
The heart may try to make up for its inability to supply the body by doing three things:
- Enlarging. The heart chamber may stretch and contract more forcefully to pump more blood. An enlarged heart can cause a person’s body to retain more fluids and cause the lungs to get congested, leading to an irregular heartbeat.
- Building more muscle mass. An enlarged heart can lead to building more muscle mass in the heart. This initially helps the heart pump blood more strongly, but is only temporary.
- Pumping faster. If the heart increases its pumping, it will help deliver more blood to the body.
These measures taken by the heart can temporarily mask the effects of heart failure, but hey do not solve the problem. Eventually, the heart failure will worsen over time as the heart compensates by taking these measures. Individuals suffering from heart failure may not be aware of the fact that their heart is not working the way it should.
Understanding Heart Failure Symptoms
What Causes Heart Failure?
The causes of heart failure can vary. Most often, it develops from other conditions that have weakened or damaged a person’s heart. However, that is not the only way a person can experience heart failure. It can also occur if the heart ventricles become too stiff. The main pumping chamber in the heart may not fill properly in between beats, and the ventricles may dilate to the point where the heart can’t pump blood throughout your body. As time progresses, the heart will no longer be able to keep up with the body’s demands to pump blood.
Have you heard of congestive heart failure? This form of heart failure is caused by the blood backing up or “congesting” into other organs, like the liver, lungs, abdomen, or into a person’s lower extremities. There are a variety of health conditions that could weaken a person’s heart and lead to heart failure:
- High blood pressure
- Faulty heart valves
- Damage to the heart muscle
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
- Heart defects
- Heart arrhythmias
Symptoms of Heart Failure
Common symptoms of heart failure include the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Struggling to breathe while lying down
- Feeling fatigued or weak
- Weight gain
- Swelling in the feet, legs, ankles or stomach
If you feel like you are having symptoms of heart failure, make sure to take note of them and track them so you are able to discuss it with your health care provider.
Heart Attack vs. Heart Failure
There is a difference between a heart attack and a heart failure. A heart attack is caused by a clot that blocks one of the heart’s blood vessels. Because the blocked blood flow to the heart can weaken the heart’s ability to pump, there could be permanent damage to the heart. This is why heart failure can often result after a heart attack.
Life After Heart Failure
Although the name suggests otherwise, there is life after heart failure. By getting an early diagnosis, heart failure treatment helps those affected with it live longer and a more active lifestyle. It’s important to know that treatment varies depending on the type and severity of a person’s heart failure.
A provider will prescribe medication based on the type of heart failure that has developed. Medications could include, but are not limited to:
- ACE inhibitors
- Beta blockers
- Angiotensin receptor blockers
To ensure you (and your heart) stay in the best health possible, it’s important to take medications as they have been prescribed. Do not skip doses or change the amount of medication unless you have been told to do so by your doctor. While prescribed medications play a pivotal role in treating heart failure, it is also important to practice a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Part of a person’s heart failure treatment will be to lead a more heart-healthy life. It’s important to consume a diet that focuses on heart-health. That includes limiting and saying “no” to foods like red meat, coconut or palm oils and sugary foods and beverages. Say “yes” to foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (like fish), legumes, vegetables and whole grains.
Increasing your activity level can help prevent many conditions that affect the heart. Aerobic exercise, like walking, helps your heart beat faster and increases your oxygen use. Why is this good? The more active you become, the more your heart will benefit and become stronger. Before beginning a new exercise regime, talk to your doctor about what kind of activities you should be doing and what is safe.
Treating Heart Failure with Medical Procedures
If your heart failure has worsened, even with medications and healthy lifestyle changes, a medical procedure may be necessary. A doctor may implant a cardiac resynchronization therapy device near the heart to help the left and right sides of the heart contract at the same time.
When heart failure causes irregular and rapid heartbeats, a person may experience sudden cardiac arrest and require an implantable cardioverter defibrillator near the heart to remedy this problem. This device will check a person’s heart rate and uses electrical pulses to correct irregular heartbeats.
Return To Your Favorite Activities With Home Care Rehabilitation Services
You can enjoy life after heart failure, but sometimes you need some extra help to get you there. At UnityPoint at Home, we understand that the path to recovery is not always the easiest. That’s why we offer in-home rehabilitation therapy services. We can provide you with a support system on your way to a healthier life.
We offer physical, occupational and speech therapies to help you maximize your recovery and regain your independence. See what UnityPoint at Home in-home rehabilitation can do for you and your health today.
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