Identifying Heart Failure Symptoms
When you consider just how many times the human heart beats over the course of a lifetime it’s easy to understand what an amazing organ it is. It’s the engine of life, and it’s front and center in all the many reasons why good cardiovascular health is so important. Just as the body ages, so does the heart and it’s an unavoidable reality for some people that they may develop degenerative cardiac congestions and even despite their best efforts to take care of their ‘ticker’. Many men will have heard how it’s a good idea to keep a pair of aspirin tabs in your wallet in the event of a heart attack, and it is a smart choice to mediate heart failure symptoms and give physicians more time to save your life.
To define what is heart failure exactly, it’s a condition where the hear becomes damaged or weakened and it then has an insufficient capacity to move blood throughout the entirety of the body. Congestive heart failure symptoms may also be a result of the heart no longer being able to relax enough to allow blood to flow back from the lungs into the heart. Congestive heart failure can also lead to pulmonary edema, and for all these reasons and many more it’s extremely helpful to be able to identify heart failure symptoms.
The following will look at all these symptoms, along with discussing treatment and health maintenance choices for people who have are at risk of cardiac disease.
Heart Failure Causes
Myocardial infarction (MI) is the clinical term used for a heart attack, and that’s the most common cause of heart failure. Myocardial infarction can be caused by any number of different factors, but being overweight, eating a diet high in saturated and trans fats, smoking, and genetic predisposition are the leading ones.
The next most common cause of heart failure is hypertension, which is high blood pressure. It’s easy for high blood pressure to go undetected and this is what makes it such a danger in relation to developing heart disease. When hypertension is untreated it can be a cause of heart failure.
Less common heart failure causes include:
- Improper heart valve function due to undetected congenital heart defects
- Heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis) due to infection
- Excessive alcohol or drug abuse
- High blood cholesterol
- Complications related to certain medical conditions like thyroid disease or anemia, among others
Heart Failure Symptoms
Given how integral the heart is to human vitality it’s usually easy for someone to discern when their heart is not functioning properly. Heart failure symptoms tend to be quite apparent and usually are seen as a serious enough issue that the individual will seek medical help.
Heart failure symptoms include:
- Strong chest pain that does not subside
- Pronounced shortness of breath, especially when in a prone position
- Sudden weight gain of more than 1.5kg (3lb) over a day or two, or over 2.5kg (5lb) in a week
- Cough or cold symptoms lasting more than a week
- Feeling bloated or overly full in the belly all the time
- Loss of appetite, or significant changes in it
- Extreme tiredness and chronic exhaustion, and loss of energy
- Increases swelling of ankles, legs, feet, sacrum (base of spine) or abdomen
- Increased and frequent need to urinate at night
Congestive Heart Failure Symptoms
There are certain other indicators that are more congestive heart failure symptoms and indicate this condition rather than standard heart failure. They include:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats
- Congested lungs that can manifest itself as shortness or breath or a dry, hacking cough or wheezing when no other sign of any illness is present
- Unexplained fluid and water retention
- Dizziness paired with fatigue and weakness
These heart failure symptoms are often more debilitating than the ones listed above as standard heart failure symptoms, but it’s important to not disregard any of the symptoms listed here.
Heart Failure Treatments
When a person has a weakened heart and their life is at risk due to the chance of heart failure then physicians will usually begin by putting them on medications like Warfarin (Coumadin), Lanoxin (Digoxin) or a beta blocker like Tambocor (Flecainide), among others. ACE inhibitor drugs and angiotensin receptor drugs like Benicar may be prescribed too.
When medication approaches do not return the individual to an acceptable level of cardiac health then surgery may be required to permanently alleviate heart failure symptoms. Many of you know of and are aware of what a pacemaker implant does, and this type of surgery is called cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). Other people will be better served with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and that can be a part of CRT therapy too.
In cases where heart disease is so pronounced that heart failure symptoms are so pronounced that they are not remediable with these kinds of treatments then bypass surgery or heart transplantation may be required.