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Heart Failure: Your questions answered

The passing of 53 year old, George Michael to reportedly “heart failure” brings to sad light a condition not commonly discussed.  Here are your questions answered:

What is heart failure?

Heart failure, also known as “congestive heart failure, is when the heart fails to pump properly.  The heart’s main job is to pump oxygenated blood it receives from the lungs to the rest of the body with a force strong enough to circulate the oxygenated blood.  When it receives the deoxygenated blood after circulation, it then pumps this into the lungs to become oxygenated again.  When the heart does not sustain an adequate force of pump, its state of weakness is called “failure”.

heart-two-pumps

Courtesy of answersingenesis.org

There are different types of heart failure depending on the part of the heart that is affected (right vs. left) and the function affected (filling vs. pumping). The heart will try to compensate by increasing size and its muscle mass. Symptoms will be discussed below.

What causes heart failure?

Many things can cause the heart to weaken. These include:

Prior heart attack

Coronary artery disease

High blood pressure

Drug use, including stimulants

NSAIDS, long term anti inflammatory use

Trauma

Infection

Heart valve disease

Congenital heart defects

Abnormal heart rhythms

Liver and Kidney disease

Chronic diseases such as hypothyroid and hyperthyroid, diabetes, HIV, hemachromatosis

Alcohol use

Tobacco use

Sleep apnea

And the list goes on…..

What are signs of heart failure?

When the heart does not pump properly, fluid can back up.  This can manifest as:

Chest pain

Shortness of breath

Edema, leg swelling

Fluid in the lungs, abdomen and other tissues

Weight gain

Moreover, since oxygenated blood is not being circulated well, symptoms can also include:

Fatigue

Dizziness

Abnormal heart beat

Dyspnea on exertion, difficulty breathing with activity

Renal disease

to name a few…..

Is heart failure treatable?

Yes. If caught early, heart failure can be treated.  Some of the medications used include:

Diuretics – to reduce the fluid and workload on the heart

ACE inhibitors – a class of medication that reduces blood pressure and relaxes blood vessels to improve flow

Beta Blockers – a class of  medication that lowers the heart rate, allowing the heart more time to fill and decrease work load

and others that can improve contractility of the heart and normalize heart rhythms.

If heart failure persists, sometimes surgery is indicated. For example, if an abnormal valve is the cause of the heart failure, this may be replaced.  If its a clogged artery, this would be addressed.

If heart failure becomes more severe, some patients may be candidates for heart pumps and even transplants.

 How can one prevent heart failure?

Improving the function of the heart involves multiple good healthy practices, such as not smoking, drinking, using recreational drugs, maintaining  a normal blood pressure, avoiding diabetes and high cholesterol, keeping active, and eating a balanced diet.

 

                                                                                                                 LearnHealthSpanish.com

                                                                                                         Medical Spanish made easy

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network and Board Certified Family Physician

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Author:

Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, Assistant Professor Touro University Nevada

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