American Heart Month, how to manage heart failure
February is recognized as American Heart Month and we couldn’t think of a more important topic to provide you with more information on. Receiving the news of heart failure can be overwhelming with emotion and fear, but what does it mean? Can this be cured?
Medical terminology can be confusing and frightening to individuals who are not familiar with the industry. Receiving the news that your current symptoms are a result of heart failure may seem like your heart has finally given up, this common confusion is not abnormal for you to think. However, heart failure does not mean your heart has stopped pumping blood entirely. Heart failure means your heart is not performing at its maximum potential; this is a condition that cannot be cured but can be managed through medication.
To better understand the dangers of heart disease, it is crucial to understand the fundamental functions the heart contributes to the cardiovascular system in the body.
Your heart has one primary job in the cardiovascular system, that essential job is to pump blood and circulate it throughout the body. The heart is broken into four chambers, two on the right side and two on the left. This circulation system is vital in keeping you alive. Nutrients are pumped to your organs and blood and circulated through the lungs to be oxygenated. The left and right atria are responsible for receiving blood and then pumping blood out through the right and left ventricles. This is all possible with the aid of four essential valves, which are responsible for allowing the heart to work as a pump. These valves will open allowing blood to circulate then close to prevent the blood from running backward. The heart is one of the most critical organs in that it circulates everything you need to its desired location.
The heart works hard at alleviating these critical issues with the help of the body. As the heart enlarges attempting to increase performance, the body will narrow blood vessels to keep blood pressure up. The body will also divert blood flow from less important organs like the kidneys to more central organs such as the heart.
With a solid understanding of how a healthy heart works and the primary role it serves in the cardiovascular system you will have a better understanding of how we define heart failure. Heart failure is a progressive issue that most individuals do not recognize on their own initially.
The steps involved in heart failure
- First, the heart will stretch, enlarging in size to combat the demand to pump more blood.
- Second, the heart will develop more muscle mass resulting from the contracting cells of the heart enlarging.
- Third, the heart starts pumping faster to increase output.
These temporary measures the heart takes to combat the inefficiency of its performance are short lived. Once the heart has exhausted these tactics the individual will encounter recognizable symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and increased heart rates. It is typical at this point for an individual to seek medical attention.
Unfortunately a cure for heart disease does not exist but there are numerous way to manage the diagnoses.
- Stop smoking: smoking is a leading factor in heart disease and with its elimination you will reduce your risk of complications.
- Control your blood pressure: optimal blood pressure should be less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic.
- Keep your cholesterol down: a healthy cholesterol measure is an LDL level below 130 milligrams per deciliter. For individual already diagnosed or at risk of heart failure it is best to aim for 70 milligrams per deciliter.
- Eat a healthy diet: focus your diet around fruits, vegetables and whole grains and avoid foods high in fat, cholesterol and added sugars.
- Stay active: participate in light exercise, which will help control your cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.
If you or a loved one are encountering any of these symptoms or if heart disease is a genetic factor it is advised to contact your doctor with any of your concerns. If you are a WorldCare member and you or a loved one have been diagnosed with heart failure and would like a medical second opinion, please contact us.
Supplementary information https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353124