Did you know that out of 100 people who suffer from hypertension, only about 12 people understand the seriousness of the problem and are aware that the condition can lead to heart failure? It’s a gloomy situation indeed, which has resulted from the fact that heart failure is an often grossly misunderstood term.
What is heart failure?
A person’s heart is a muscle that pumps blood to the rest of the body. It is in that sense, a machine. When a machine loses its efficiency, it’s a failure. That is what heart failure is. In this case, failure is when the heart can no longer pump blood the way it used to. As is the case with most diseases, there are three kinds of heart failure – mild, moderate and severe. Heart’s efficiency is usually only 60 percent. When the percentage of efficiency comes down to 50 or 40, it is medically justified that the condition be referred to as heart failure.
Can heart failure be treated?
The term heart failure usually brings with it images of fatality and death. However, in reality, this is not the case. Heart failure can be treated, and people who take good care of their health can live productive lives. People often assume that heart failure signifies the end. In truth, it doesn’t. Mild and moderate cases of heart failure can usually be treated with medication and lifestyle changes.
It’s a fact that when your heart has a problem, by definition, it will cease to work properly. When diagnosed with heart disease, the impetus on each individual is to do what needs to be done to increase heart efficiency – self-awareness and lifestyle alterations. When someone fractures a bone, all you need to do is put a cast on the affected area, rest the bone for a few weeks and the healing process begins. A heart however doesn’t stop working even after its efficiency has gone down. This makes heart disease very tricky to handle.
What factors cause heart failure?
There are three main factors that cause heart failure: hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, and in some rare cases, viral infections. These three factors have their respective impact on the severity of heart failure. In the case of high BP, patients usually aren’t even aware that they suffer from this condition, making it hard to detect and thereby delaying the treatment, which almost always leads to a heart attack and the consequently inevitable heart failure. At some point or the other, according to expert studies, 90 percent of all patients suffering from high BP will have heart failure, and this is only because they usually don’t treat high BP. High BP is very much preventable. If a person constantly monitors his/her health, adequate measures can be taken to ensure that high BP is avoided.
With diabetes, the story is different. In a country like India, where the incidence of diabetes is so high, people who have not detected the problem, stand to suffer a lot. Patients, whose tendency to diabetes is hereditary, should closely monitor their blood sugar levels in a bid to prevent heart failure. Sometimes, patients with a chronic viral infection are prone to heart failure, as the infection may weaken their heart muscle, thereby making their hearts vulnerable.
How is heart failure treated?
Mild to moderate heart failure patients can be medicated to ensure that the quality of their day-to-day life is unaffected. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and ensuring adequate medical care, will ensure that patients diagnosed with heart failure can live normal lives. Cases that are severe may require treatment that is as drastic, like heart transplant. In some cases of heart failure, we install a three-valve pacemaker in the heart. In some instance we may have to perform a heart transplant. When a person undergoes a heart transplant, it is important to note that this person is getting back his original quality of life. We are implanting a healthy and fully functioning heart. A person who could never climb stairs will, after a transplant, be able to resume a healthy lifestyle.
Though medical interventional treatments are available for patients, we should remember that heart disease is avoidable. The best way to do so would be to prevent the problem before it occurs, especially if you are genetically prone to it. Preventive measures are obvious – a healthy lifestyle, eating in moderation, at least half-hour of physical activity/ exercise every day and minimal alcohol consumption.