Heart failure refers to a medical condition of a patient when their heart muscle is not pumping enough blood. One of the major causes of reduction in heart’s ability to pump blood is coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attack. However, faulty heart valves, chronic blood pressure, or genetic disease can also be a cause of heart failure.
According to a report by the Indian Heart Association, 50 per cent of heart failure in Indian men occurs under 50 years of age, 25 per cent of all heart attacks in Indian men occur under the age of 40 years of age, and Indian women have high mortality rates from cardiac disease as well. While these statistics are alarming, proper treatment is possible if signs and symptoms are not ignored.
The early signs and symptoms of heart failure are often very subtle and can be dangerous if left unnoticed. People attribute symptoms of heart failure as just getting old. Some of the key symptoms are:
When a person’s heart becomes incapable of pumping oxygen-rich blood effectively, the person can feel tired or fatigued. They are unable to do their regular chores with ease. They may find difficulty in performing activities like walking, cycling, or climbing stairs.
- Restriction on activity
People with heart failure are unable to their normal day-to-day activities because they become tired easily. This can also result in reduced concentration as they are exhausted and tired.
When a person’s heart is not pumping enough blood, it leads to fluids build-up. The fluid build-up in the lungs of a person can also lead to coughing, wheezing, and breathing difficulties.
- Edema or ankle swelling
A swollen ankle can be an early sign of heart failure in a patient. As the heart doesn’t have enough pumping power to drive used blood back up from the lower extremities, fluid gets collected in the ankles, legs, thighs, and even in one’s abdomen. This fluid can also cause weight gain in some patients.
- Shortness of breath
The fluid in the lungs makes it difficult for carbon dioxide in used blood to be exchanged for fresh oxygen. It may also be difficult for some to breathe when lying down, owing to gravity that allows fluid from below the lungs to travel up the torso.
While these signs do not confirm a diagnosis of heart failure, they do convey a sense of urgency to visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with heart failure and any of the symptoms suddenly worsen or you may experience any new symptom, it may indicate that your heart failure is worsening or that your therapy is not working. In such a situation, it is important to see a physician at the earliest
Patients often believe that heart failure is end of life and that it cannot be treated. However, in reality, heart failure patients have effective treatment options, including lifestyle modifications, medications, and medical devices, which can improve heart failure and prolong survival.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is for educational purposes only and not meant to provide any medical or clinical advice. Please consult your doctor for more information.
The author is D.M. (Cardiology), Senior Cardiologist, Saroj Medical Institute and Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi. Views are personal.