Despite its name, “heart failure” does not mean that your heart has completely failed. Rather, it indicates that your heart does not pump blood as efficiently as it should. While heart failure can lead to life-threatening conditions, you can also manage it through losing weight, exercising and improving your diet.
- Symptoms of heart failure include:
- Shortness of breath when you exert yourself
- Sudden weight gain or swelling
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
The most common causes include:
Coronary artery disease: Over time, fatty deposits build up in the arteries causing them to narrow and slow the flow of blood. If these fatty deposits form a blood clot, it can block blood flow to the heart muscle and cause a heart attack and heart failure.
High blood pressure: When your blood pressure is high, your heart must work extra hard to pump blood throughout your body, which can cause your heart muscle to thicken. The heart may eventually become too stiff and weak to pump blood efficiently.
Damaged heart valves: Heart valves keep blood flowing in the correct direction throughout the heart. When a valve is damaged, the heart must work harder to pump blood, sometimes leading to heart failure.
Other causes of heart failure include damage to the heart muscle due to infection, alcohol abuse, chemotherapy or drug abuse; inflammation of the heart muscle; congenital heart defects; abnormal heart rhythms; or chronic diseases such as diabetes.
“When you receive a heart failure diagnosis, work with your doctor to determine what steps you can take to still lead a full life,” says Joseph C. Dwyer, MD, FACC, cardiologist, Saint Francis Medical Partner. “There are certain medications that can help patients with heart failure. But there are also many lifestyle changes that can prevent your condition from worsening, such as quitting smoking, restricting salt in your diet and weighing yourself daily to determine if you are retaining fluids.”
For more information, call 573-331-3000.