Did you know that heart failure is a major cause of health problems and mortality among the elderly… and that over 77,000 patients suffer from heart failure right here in Lebanon? And would you ever imagine that the cost burden exceeds $100,000,000 each and every year? The statistics are staggering, and it is the time to spread awareness about this disease and boost the health of our communities.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening illness where the heart cannot pump adequate blood around the body. In most cases, this occurs because the heart muscle responsible for the pumping action weakens over time or becomes too stiff.
Recognize the Causes & Assess the Risks
- It is a fact that the risk of developing heart failure increases with age, and in general, tends to be more common in men than in women.
- About 1 in 5 individuals (20%) will develop heart failure at some point in their lives.
- In most cases, there is no single cause for heart failure.
- Heart failure frequently occurs when the heart muscle has been damaged, which can happen following a heart attack or other illness affecting the heart, or by damage sustained more gradually due to diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, excess alcohol consumption, or drug abuse.
- Genetics, lifestyle, emotional stress, and physical activity all play an important role.
Get to Know the Symptoms
Heart failure symptoms can be very debilitating; they occur because the damaged heart cannot pump enough blood around the body. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swollen limbs from buildup of fluid
- Severe fatigue
- Coughing and/or wheezing
- Weight gain due to fluid build-up
Heart failure can progress and gradually worsen over time, which is referred to as chronic heart failure (CHF). However, heart failure can be experienced in acute episodes (acute heart failure), where symptoms worsen rapidly resulting in the need for hospitalization.
Follow a heart-healthy diet!
Eat healthy, live longer! Following a heart-healthy diet can save your life:
- Include high-fiber, low-cholesterol, and low sodium foods in your diet
- Utilize fresh ingredients as much as possible with no added salt
- If you must use canned vegetables, choose no-added salt versions or rinse under running water before cooking
- Adjust the sodium content of home cooked recipes
- Avoid smoked, canned, or cured meats
- Steer away from packaged and processed foods with high sodium content.
Exercise for a healthy heart!
Following a regular exercise program, with your physicians consent and guidance, can do wonders for your heart. Aerobic exercise in particular will:
- Strengthen your heart, improve circulation, and aid the body in using oxygen more efficiently
- Improve heart failure symptoms
- Help reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and obesity
- Strengthen bones and improve muscle tone
- Reduce built up physical and emotional tension
- Improve balance and flexibility
- Encourage better sleep and an improved mood.
Treatment of Heart Failure
Unfortunately, heart failure is a perplexing condition to manage, and till now, incurable. The main goals of current treatments aim to manage debilitating symptoms such as congestion and shortness of breath. There is a crucial need for new and effective treatment plans to relieve symptoms without damaging the kidneys, reduce the number of costly hospitalizations, and finally, improve the mortality and morbidity of seriously ill patients.