What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet tissue needs. Any alteration in heart structure or rhythm can lead to heart failure.

The basic causes of heart failure, treated by adult cardiology specialists, are mainly degenerative, i.e. they are linked to the aging process of the human being.

There are a number of factors that can accelerate the onset of heart disease leading to heart failure: sedentary lifestyle, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity, among others. The degenerative process, through different mechanisms, causes alterations of the coronary arteries, the cardiac muscle, the valves or the appearance of arrhythmias that will finally lead to the appearance of the symptoms of heart failure.

Symptoms of heart failure

The main symptom is the sensation of choking or shortness of breath, dyspnea, when performing activities that were previously normal. At the beginning, it appears only with major efforts, but gradually the patient suffers it with minor efforts or even at rest.

We also find swelling in the ankles (edema). They are due fundamentally to the start-up by the organism of mechanisms that try to compensate for the alteration of the heart; although these can effectively improve the situation, they eventually cause a tendency for the kidneys to eliminate less water, and this accumulates in the lungs and in the lower parts of the body, feet and ankles.

Anyone presenting with symptoms should undergo a complete cardiology examination, which should include auscultation of the heart and lungs, inspection of the ankles for edema, an electrocardiogram and a chest X-ray. If there are any abnormalities, an ultrasound study of the heart (echocardiogram) and sometimes a stress test should be performed to determine the cause of the disorder.

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Treatment of heart failure

Treatment should be based on correcting the cause in order to cure the heart failure: cessation of the arrhythmia, normalization of the coronary arteries, etc. If this is not possible, heart failure becomes a chronic disease, in which medications are administered on the one hand to try to control the excess compensatory mechanisms and on the other hand the symptoms are controlled mainly with medications that eliminate excess body water, diuretics.

In the most severe cases, the implantation of a pacemaker or defibrillator may be required to avoid sudden death, and even cardiac transplantation in appropriate candidates.

We should not forget that the main thing is prevention by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Giving up smoking is essential, in addition to strict control of diabetes and arterial hypertension. For prevention, a diet rich in fish, vegetables, legumes and fruits helps, along with a fight against sedentary lifestyles.

In the event that heart failure becomes chronic, measures should be stricter. The correct taking of medication is essential in these more extreme cases.