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American Heart Month: Understanding Heart Failure

It’s that special time of the year again! In February, it’s hard not to imagine red, rosy cartoon hearts, as Valentine’s Day approaches. That’s why this month is the perfect month to celebrate American Heart Month. Last February we wrote about ways to improve your heart health. This year we intend to educate you about one of the leading conditions that can occur from heart disease. Remember, heart disease is an umbrella term that can identify with any number of issues that deals with your circulatory system including: your heart, your arteries, or your blood pressure. This condition can affect all three. It’s known as heart failure.

Misconceptions about Heart Failure

It may seem like heart failure occurs when your heart completely stops beating. However, that is not the case. It’s not the aftermath of a heart attack or a condition that precedes death. Heart failure simply means that the heart cannot do its job properly. The amount of blood that needs to be pumped throughout the body isn’t meeting the full requirement. This can occur due to blocked arteries restricting the flow of blood, or diabetes diabetes because high levels of blood sugar can really do damage to our hearts. Nevertheless, heart failure is a gradual process that occurs because your heart is being overworked. It’s not some sudden death syndrome where your heart simply turns off.

Heart Failure’s Prevalence

Unfortunately, because of how common some of the causes of heart failure are, it’s pretty prevalent in America. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are 5.7 million Americans living with heart disease. Both children and adults can suffer from it, but the treatments are much different for the varying age groups. However, for adults, there is no cure for it at the moment, but with a few lifestyle changes and proper medicine, people can live longer and more active lifestyles with heart failure.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

One reason it’s difficult to diagnose heart failure on your own is due to its symptoms. The symptoms of heart failure are very similar to other heart disease complications. However, you should still see your doctor if you’re noticing complications that correlate with ANY type of heart disease, especially if you notice any of the symptoms below. They are:

  • Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
  • Increased need to urinate at night
  • Lack of appetite and nausea

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms below, make sure you seek emergency help right away. They include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting or severe weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat associated with shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting
  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus

This second set of symptoms may refer to someone who has already been diagnosed with heart failure. The idea of treatment for this form of heart disease is to lessen these specific symptoms, so if they’re getting worse, the treatment is not working. It may also mean you’re suffering from a different form of heart disease such as a heart attack. That’s why it’s important to seek immediate help when experiencing symptoms from the last set.

Stop It Before It Starts

For most cases of heart disease, it can be prevented early on in life. Healthy lifestyle choices can eliminate any signs or symptoms of heart disease. Eating right and staying active are usually the number one and two facets of staying healthy. Whatever order of importance is up to you! Just make sure you’re doing both. Another important aspect of keeping your heart healthy and lowering your chances of heart failure is smoking. If you smoke, stop. If you don’t, don’t start. It’s pretty simple. Smoking destroys your lungs and shrinks your blood vessels, which has an adverse effect on your blood flow and, in turn, wreaks havoc on your heart. If you can do these three things, your heart will definitely thank you in the long run!

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