The human heart beats about 2.5 billion times over the average lifetime, pushing millions of gallons of blood to every part of the body according to the American Heart Association.
Quite the workload! So, it might seem perfectly natural that a heart would eventually have trouble keeping up.
But heart failure is not inevitable, and more often happens because of poor diet and lack of exercise, smoking, infection, diabetes, and other underlying issues that cause damage to the heart muscle.
The gradual decline in a heart’s ability to pump blood shows up in symptoms that many people at first chalk up to being out of shape, being overweight, or the aging process. While you may not want to over-react to a potentially worrying symptom, delaying a diagnosis of heart failure can allow a cascade of physiological changes that can result in permanent damage to other parts of the body.
In addition to the fatigue and lack of stamina reduced blood flow causes, heart failure signs include:
Mental confusion or impaired thinking due to reduced blood flow to the brain
Rapid weight gain, fluid buildup and swelling when blood flow to the kidneys is restricted, triggering
Chronic cough or wheezing due to fluid build-up in the lungs
Rapid or irregular heartbeat as the heart compensates for the burdened pumping action
Lack of appetite or nausea when the liver and digestive system become congested due to a hampered blood supply
About 6.5 million Americans have heart failure, and it contributes to 1 in 8 deaths overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Getting a handle on it early can identify issues that can be treated to reverse early heart failure in some cases, and slow or prevent complications at other stages.
“Once you get diagnosed, it’s very important that you follow a good treatment plan with a good cardiologist or heart failure specialist,” says Dr. Kulpreet Barn, Medical Director of the Advanced Heart Failure Center at Deborah Heart and Lung Center. “And if you do that, it's not necessarily a death sentence but a chronic disease management issue, and people can live years with heart failure, rather than months."
KYW’s Rasa Kaye talks with Dr. Barn about a team approach and latest in advanced heart failure treatment, including the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) heart pump now being implanted in patients at Deborah Heart and Lung Center.
Learn more: DemandDeborah.org