Can heart failure occur without knowing it?


            Heart is one of the vital organs in humans. The heart works all day and night without stopping to pump the blood throughout the body. Do you know that the blood vessels are 100 000 kilometres in length? Just imagine the heart pumps all the blood along these blood vessels. This is why it is important to take care of heart health so that the heart can work efficiently and hopefully till the end of a person’s time in old age. There are many heart diseases that can affect the heart functionality, one of them is heart failure.

            One of the many heart diseases that is common in society is heart failure. Heart failure is a condition of the impaired heart or heart structures that makes the heart unable to pump blood as demanded by the body. It is estimated that there are 63.4 million cases of heart failure in the world. Heart failure is so much more than just a heart that is unable to work properly. It is the reason behind disability and even death. The risk for heart failure in male doubles with each 10 year-age increase after the age of 65 whereas in women it is tripled.

            There are two types of heart failure. The first one is named as “systolic heart failure” which occurs when the heart muscle is unable to contract with enough force to pump blood throughout the whole blood circulation system. The second one is named as “diastolic heart failure” which occurs when the heart does contract normally but the ventricles of the heart are not properly relaxed or have become stiff. This led to less volume of blood entering the heart chamber during the normal blood filling phase in between heartbeats. To determine if heart failure is systolic or diastolic dysfunction, doctors typically run an echocardiogram test to help evaluate the heart pumping function.

            The most common and main cause for heart failure is usually due to coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is caused by the plaque build-up deposited in the wall of the arteries. The plaques are mainly made up of fatty substances. This will ultimately affect the blood supply to the heart. Other causes include cardiomyopathy, inflammation of the heart muscle such as endocarditis, congenital heart defects, abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and heart valve diseases. Conditions that overwork the heart muscles can also contribute to heart failure such as high blood pressure (hypertension), chronic kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and bad lifestyles such as alcohol or drug abuse and emotional distress.

            Heart failure symptoms can range from mild to severe. It can be constant or come and go. Symptoms depend on which side of the heart is affected. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue even after taking rest, swelling of the lower legs or abdomen, temporary rapid weight gain due to the build-up fluid, difficulty to sleep when lying flat, swelling in the veins of the neck, persistent coughing and nausea. Some even urinate more than usual and have chest pain when it is caused by heart attack. Symptoms may also include kidney or liver damages and malnutrition. It is worth noting that symptoms of heart failure may resemble other medical conditions which makes it difficult to recognize the early signs of heart failure.

            The question now is, can heart failure occur without knowing it? Yes, a person may have heart failure without knowing it. This is because the symptoms have a wide range. A person can have heart failure that is so mild that it only may be noticed when it affects physical fitness. One thing for sure, people with severe heart failure will find it hard to live a normal life and do their daily routine.

       Risk factors are something that increases the chance for developing a disease. This means that the risk for a person to have heart failure increases when a person has one or more risk factors. Risk factors for heart failure include older age, family history of heart failure, unhealthy lifestyle habits such as bad eating habits, smoking, heavy alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle of not engaging in physical activities or drug abuse and other forms of heart diseases, lung diseases or infections. Risk factors are a piece of information that people should know and understand how important it plays a role in the course of heart failure as the disease.

            By identifying risk factors, a person can take steps to improve their chance of preventing heart failure. Modifiable risk factors such as lifestyle should actually be the main step to take for those with any of the risk factors. Hence, people at risk for heart failure should actively engage in a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk for heart failure or to slow down the progression of heart failure.

            If a person finds themselves with risk for heart failure or symptoms of heart failure, he or she should seek medical advice. This is important to prevent further complications that may end with death when it is left untreated or unattended properly by a healthcare provider.

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Todd Oneil