A condition in which the heart is unable to pump the appropriate quantity of blood to match the body’s requirement is called heart failure. In certain cases the heart cannot fill itself with the appropriate quantity of blood and in some cases it is unable to pump the required blood for the rest of the body, with appropriate force. In certain cases, people suffer from both the problems.
Heart failure has nothing in relation to the stopping of the heart instead it tells us about a serious condition, which requires immediate medical help. As the pumping action of the heart grows weaker, gradually it develops into heart failure. Only right or both the sides of the heart may be affected by this condition. Both the sides of the heart are affected in maximum cases.
If the heart fails to pump the appropriate amount of blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen, heart failure on the right side occurs. When the heart is unable to pump the oxygenated blood to the rest of the parts of the body, heart failure in left side occurs.
Fluids may build up in the veins in the neck, abdomen, ankles, liver, legs and feet due to heart failure on the right side. Fatigue (tiredness) and breathlessness may also be caused by left and right side heart failure.
Damage or overwork of the muscles of the heart may cause failure of heart. This leads to the weakening of the heart. Certain substances and proteins can be released in the blood, as the heart weakens. Due to the toxic effects that the substances have on the blood flow and heart, the heart failure may worsen.
Heart failure may be caused due to some of the common factors. They are as follows:
- Coronary heart disease.
Diabetes: The inability of the body to produce insulin (a hormone which converts glucose into energy) or the inability to use insulin occurs in diabetes. Gradually, the high blood glucose level may damage the heart muscles and may also weaken the blood vessels near or around the heart, which leads to heart failure.
Hypertension: Blood pressure is said to be high if over time it stays above or at 140/90mmHg. Blood pressure forces the blood to push against the artery walls. The rise in pressure and if the pressure stays over time weakens the heart and it may lead to the build up plaque.
Coronary heart disease: Building up of plaque (waxy substance) in the coronary arteries (arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscles) causes a condition called coronary heart disease. Plaque reduces the blood flow to the muscles of the heart and the arteries are narrowed due to plaque. Blood flow can be permanently or partially blocked due to blood clots.
Coronary heart disease may lead to a discomfort which is called angina or chest pain, heart damage, a heart attack or maybe death.
SYMPTOMS: Heart failure may have some common symptoms like:
- Troubled breathing or breathlessness.
- Tiredness (fatigue).
- Swelling in the veins in the neck, abdomen, feet, legs, ankles.
All the above symptoms occur due to the building up of fluid in the body. Building up of fluid due to heart failure may also cause the following:
- Cough (worsens while lying and at night).
- Gain in weight.
- Frequent Urination.
CONSEQUENCES IF NOT TREATED: If heart failure is left untreated, it may lead to:
- Damage or failure of the kidneys: The flow of the blood to the kidneys may be reduced due to heart failure and it may cause failure of the kidney.
- Problems of the heart valve: The valves which keep the flow of blood in the appropriate direction through the heart may be damaged due to the building up of fluid that is caused due to heart failure.
- Damage of liver; too much of pressure can be put on the liver due to the building up of fluid arising from heart failure. It makes difficult for the liver to work properly as the pressure due to the build up of fluid causes scarring and may damage the liver.
- Stroke and heart attack: The flow of the blood being slow in heart failure, it is likely to develop blood clots in the coronary arteries which may increase the threat of stroke and heart attack.
For the people having healthy heart: To reduce the threat of heart failure or any heart disease, the following actions should be taken:
- A healthy diet must be followed. It may include a variety of fruits and vegetables, low fat or fat free dairy products, whole grains and foods rich in protein.
- Quitting the habit of smoking.
- Losing weight. People who are overweight or obese must have an appropriate weight loss plan.
- Being physically active.
For people having threat or risk of heart failure: If someone is at a threat or risk of heart failure, the threat can be reduced taking the following actions:
- Avoiding the consumption of alcohol.
- Consultation with a doctor about the type of physical activities one should be engaged in.
- Following all the actions that are recommended for the people with healthy hearts.