Contributed by: Healthians Team
Heart failure is a commonly rising medical problem these days, especially in the elderly population.
Did you know you can have a heart attack and not even get to know?
Yes, that’s true! It can be a silent heart attack which has no symptoms, minimal symptoms or even unrecognized symptoms and many people do not even get to know about it until weeks or months as the symptoms are minimal.
Heart failure is a long-term condition that tends to get gradually worse over time. It cannot usually be cured, but the symptoms can often be controlled for many years.
Let’s begin with the basic idea of heart failure.
Heart failure is different from a heart attack. Just like a heart attack, heart failure can be life-threatening. But there is a thin difference between these two.
A heart attack happens when blood flow is blocked in one of the vessels that supply the heart itself.
Heart failure is a malfunction in the heart that prevents the heart muscle from filling or pumping blood well enough to keep the body working properly. It usually happens because the heart becomes too weak or stiff.
The symptoms usually appear in older adults, but heart failure can happen at any age. It is often linked to heart conditions that can also cause other kinds of problems:
- Cardiac arrhythmias or problems with the rhythm of your heartbeat.
- Coronary heart disease could lead to angina or a heart attack.
- High blood pressure puts a strain on your heart.
- Issues such as congenital heart disease, heart valve problems or cardiomyopathies prevent the heart from functioning properly.
The earliest symptoms of heart failure are often very subtle, but it’s dangerous to ignore them.
Here are some early warning signs of heart failure:
Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is the most common symptom of heart failure.
Fluid in the lungs can make it more difficult to breathe for carbon dioxide in used blood to be exchanged for fresh oxygen.
It may also be harder to breathe when lying down because gravity allows fluid from below the lungs to travel up the torso.
If you have any of these symptoms, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have heart failure.
But you must contact your doctor to talk about getting an exam to test more thoroughly for signs of heart failure.
Accumulation of fluid in the lungs causes coughing, wheezing, or breathing difficulty. It is one of the signs of heart failure.
Did you know 90% of case of acute heart failure is the result of congestion, a manifestation of fluid build-up due to increased filling pressures?
Oedema or ankle swelling
Oedema is a condition of swelling due to fluid retention.
The insufficiency of the kidney to filter out sodium and water causes fluid retention in the tissues and it may lead to cardiac oedema.
When a heart is not able to pump blood from the lungs throughout the body, it may lead to swelling of the ankle and legs due to fluid accumulation.
Additionally, this fluid retention can lead to sudden weight gain as well.
Usually, after heart failure, people are not able to do physical activities like they used to do before. It is because you get easily tired or have shortness of breath.
You may have a feeling of tiredness and difficulty in day-to-day activities such as shopping, climbing stairs, walking etc.
Lack of appetite and nausea
The digestive system receives less blood, causing problems with digestion.
When you are experiencing heart failure, you might have the feeling of fullness or not feel to eat anything.
Even you may feel nauseous more often.
Increased heart rate or palpitations
Patients may feel a fluttering in the heart (palpitations) or a heartbeat that seems irregular or out of rhythm. This kind of experience is often described as a pounding or racing sensation in the chest.
This condition arises with heart failure because your heart isn’t getting as much blood as it needs. Your heart weakens without enough blood, causing it to beat faster.
Insomnia (lack of sleep) or trouble sleeping are the symptoms common in patients with stable heart failure and are associated with daytime symptoms and decrements in functional performance.
If you have trouble sleeping at least 3 days per week for at least 1 month, there may be a bigger reason.
You must contact your doctor immediately for a detailed checkup.
Frequent dry cough
Cough can be due to different reasons, but cardiac cough is different from allergies, cold or flu. It often happens to those with congestive heart failure (CHF).
In heart failure, your heart muscle has dysfunction that might be due to weak contraction or stiffness.
This can allow fluid to back up in your lungs, creating a condition called pulmonary oedema.
Your body coughs persistently in an effort to eliminate the excess fluid.
Heart failure can happen to anyone. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the early signs and get the treatment you need.
The earlier heart failure is treated, the more likely the treatment will be effective.
If you observe any of the aforesaid symptoms, and these symptoms last for more than a week or two, or if you develop multiple symptoms, you must inform the medical professional right away.
It’s important not to ignore the early signs of congestive heart failure because your condition can get worse if you ignore them.
The treatment will work best when the problem is detected early.
Also, to minimize the risks of cardiac illnesses and complications, you should also opt for regular preventive heart checkups.
These health checks can provide you with a comprehensive insight into your heart’s health, allowing you to take necessary precautions to keep your heart healthy.