Together Against Heart Failure
Patricia Aleckzandra| Vigorbuddy
17 million people around the globe dies due to heart failure mostly were heart attacks and stroke. In the country, the alarming number of deaths caused by the disease is continuously increasing. According to reports of the National Statistic Office (NSO), 5 out of 10 deaths in the Philippines were caused by cardiovascular failure. The report also said that 21% of all deaths last 2009 were accounted for heart failure.
The term heart failure may seem to sound like the heart is incapable of functioning anymore. But it is actually a term used to describe the heart’s inability to pump blood to meet up the body’s blood and oxygen need. Blood and oxygen need of the body varies from activities of each individual. If you do strenuous activities often, the heart will pump more blood to deliver more oxygen to your cells. If the heart fails to do so, a person may be left ill or weak triggering the body’s compensation mechanics to start.
Basically, heart failure is the heart’s inability to keep up with the body’s workload.
Of course, the heart would try to cope up with it. There are three ways how the heart copes up according to the American Heart Association (AHA) which includes enlarging, developing more muscle mass, and pumping faster. The body also tries to deal with the changes made by the heart such as narrowing of the blood vessels to keep blood pressure up while making up for the heart’s loss of power. Also, the body diverts blood away from less important tissues and organs, the heart and brain.
But these coping mechanism of the body are (and should) only be temporary. Without proper treatment, heart failure will continue and will worsen until these natural processes no longer work. Sooner or later the heart can no longer keep up.
Heart failure is not something you can just brush off. As the population grow so will the number of deaths caused by heart failure. We surely cannot completely erase it, but we can diminish it through public awareness. Here are some questions one might ask to help get to know heart failure more.
How will I know if I am prone to HF?
Everyone is prone to it. Heart failure happens to anyone at any age. How to know whether you are suffering from heart failure is the real question. Below are the list of signs and symptoms of the disease:
- Dyspnoea (or shortness in breathing) which is usually experienced during activity, at rest, or while sleeping.
- Persistent coughing or wheezing which is often characterized by production of white or pink blood-tinged mucus.
- Edema (build up of excess fluid in body tissues) resulting in swelling of feet, ankles, legs, abdomen or weight gain.
- Tiredness and/or fatigue which makes everyday activities difficult all the time.
- Lack of appetite and nausea caused by digestion problems because digestive system receives less blood.
- Confusion and impaired thinking due to changing levels of certain substances in the blood can cause confusion.
- Increased heart rate which results to heart palpitations.
If you have more than one of the said symptoms above, we recommend you to go see a doctor. A doctor’s opinion is better than anybody else’s opinion.
How do we prevent it?
One way to prevent heart failure is to reduce your risk factors. Back in 2013, National Nutrition and Health results showed that Filipinos have high risk factors for heart failure. These include hypertension, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes. Make smart and healthy choices than will pay off for the rest of your life. Lack of exercise and strolling down the “unhealthy path” can eventually lead to an unhealthy you. Whatever you age maybe, you can always benefit from simple steps to keep your heart in a fit shape. Here are some of the ways to prevent it:
- Be active, stay active. Maintaining an active lifestyle is quite challenging but in the long run, it will benefit you.
- Lessen/Avoid drinking and smoking (or second-hand smoking). Too much alcohol can weaken heart muscles and cause heart failure. On the other hand, smoking reduces your risk of heart failure. If you started smoking as a teen, it is time to quit.
- Manage stress. Stress can increase blood pressure. Higher blood pressure can lead to heart failure. Stress is not heart-friendly.
- Eat healthy. Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. 50-70% of what they eat in countries like France, Switzerland, Sweden and the rest of the Netherland are composed of fruits and vegetables. Take note that the rate of non-hereditary diseases, diabetes, liver, and kidney problems are all time low.
- Go see a doctor. Make it a point to visit your doctor regularly. Have regular wellness exams. Talk to your doctor about your diet and lifestyle.
- Be aware. Know the signs and symptoms, learn about the disease. Being aware also means having knowledge about your family history.
What if I’m diagnosed with HF?
Several studies have shown that people who are obese have a higher risk of developing heart failure. There are several ways to know if a person is diagnosed with heart failure. If you are diagnosed with it, do not lose hope! There are available treatments. Seeking help to a professional will make it easier. Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking AT ALL CAUSE. Eat healthy and maintain to be healthy. Just because you’re diagnosed doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Get up and live!
Heart failure is not a laughing matter. If a family member, or a friend, is currently suffering from it, show your support. Let them see that they are facing the disease with their loved ones. They will never be alone.