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Heart Failure

  • What is Heart Failure?

    Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. The main body organs and tissues are therefore prevented from getting oxygen and nutrients and thus do not work properly. Heart failure leads to oedema, which is the build-up of fluids in the tissues.

    Heart failure is a chronic condition with serious consequences. It affects the general well-being including mental, physical and social status, and its prevalence increases with age. There is no cure for heart failure, but a combination of lifestyle changes, medications and sometimes surgery can help in the management and the treatment of this condition.

  • There are many causes that lead to heart failure and the most common risks are:

    • Cardiomyopathy – A disease of the heart muscle that causes the muscle to weaken. Coronary heart disease and other heart diseases can lead to cardiomyopathy
    • Coronary heart disease – One of the most common causes of heart failure as it reduces the ability of the heart to pump blood efficiently. It refers to the hardening of the arteries supplying blood to the heart due to the build-up of fatty deposits in the walls of the arteries.
    • Drinking too much alcohol, and drug abuse
    • High blood pressure – The heart has to work harder to supply blood to the body. If the heart is unable to keep up with the pressure, heart failure can develop
    • Others – Defects of the heart valves, and congenital heart disease (heart defects present at birth)
  • If you are suffering from heart failure, you may experience any of the following:

    • Chest pain (angina)
    • Fainting and dizziness due to reduced blood and oxygen supply sent to organs and muscles
    • Tiredness due to reduced blood and oxygen supply sent to organs and muscles
    • Shortness of breath resulting from fluid build-up in the lungs
    • Swollen feet, ankles and legs from fluid build-up in the veins and body tissues
    • Weight gain due to fluid build up in the body
    • Weight loss 
    • Sudden death
  • Your doctor may recommend a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and sometimes surgery to try to treat heart failure.

    • Lifestyle changes include:
      1. A healthy diet (limit salt intake to help reduce swelling)
      2. Maintain a healthy diet
      3. Quit smoking
      4. Reduce or stop drinking alcohol and taking other harmful drugs
      5. Regular exercise (your doctor can recommend a specific exercise programme)
    • Medicines:
      1. To correct arrhythmia
      2. Diuretics to help remove excess fluid in the tissues
      3. Diagoxin to help stimulate the heart’s pump action
      4. Vasodilators, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, and calcium channel blockers to lower blood pressure
    • Surgery may be advised by your doctor to correct heart abnormalities that cause heart failure. In cases of end-stage heart failure, your doctor might consider:
      1. A heart transplant
      2. A left ventricular assist device (LVAD) – A mechanical heart, that helps pump oxygen-rich blood into the body, is placed into the patient’s chest but does not replace the heart. This procedure is generally used in terminally ill patients.
      3. .
      4. A mechanical heart device – Also known as an artificial heart, it is a man-made pump that takes over the pumping action of the heart
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