Heart Failure

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Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump adequate amounts of blood around the body, as a result the body is starved of the oxygen and the nutrients which it needs to function efficiently.

When heart failure occur, the blood backs up behind the heart causing increased pressure in the lungs, because of the accumulation of fluids shortness of breath occur, regardless of whether the person is lying down, resting or during physical exertion.  Fatigue and dizziness also occur due to reduced blood flow to the brain and muscles.  The heart beat becomes irregular as it tries to compensate for the inadequate supply of oxygenated blood circulating in the body.  Fluid retention known as oedema also occurs causes swelling of the legs, ankles and abdomen.

Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, palpitations, chest pains changes in sleep pattern characterised by  and sudden waking at night gasping for breath, due to the inability to breath.  If the following symptoms occur than the medical emergency services should be contacted without delay.

1.  If the attack fails to react to rest and medication

2. If the heart rate increases to 120 and 150 beats per minute, especially if accompanied by breathlessness

3. if there is a sudden feeling of  weakness with the inability to move the arms and legs

4. Sudden and severe headaches, fainting spells or unconsciousness occur

Heart failure is a major health problem in the US with over 4.6 million cases receiving treatment at any one time, with a further 500,000 new cases diagnosed each year.  The condition is most common amongst 65 years olds and they are the ones most likely to need hospitalization.

There are two main causes for heart failure. Firstly, it can be related to the systolic action of the heart, where the heart is not contracting efficiently, or it can be due to the diastolic action, where the heart fails to relax completely.

Heart failure can occur suddenly or develop over a period of many years, regardless of the route, the end result is the same.  It is a chronic condition, however it can be managed by medication and lifestyle changes, which includes exercise, salt reduced diet, weight loss, weight control and effective stress management.

If heart failure has been diagnosed the recommendations of the health care provider should be strictly adhered to in an effort to prolong life. The advise is likely to include the taking of regular medication, the keeping of all monitoring and follow-up appointments. Meetings with the physician is also an opportunity to ask health associated questions about your condition.  Smoking is an unhealthy practice therefore it should discontinued, help to do so is readily available in most areas. 


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