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learn to watch the warning signs

Heart failure is one of the epidemics of the century. Know the risk factors, warning signs and associated treatment.

A cardiac insufficiency (IC) is a frequent disease that is considered serious, usually with a late diagnosis in which hospitalizations are recurrent. Therefore, it is crucial to know how to control it so that your health and your heart remain well for a long time.

It is considered one of the main epidemics of the century, which affects more than 60 million people worldwide. And despite having been underdiagnosed in recent years, lately it has gained importance in public health.

Did you know that, although the rate of patients with heart failure is high, when the disease is properly controlled it is possible to have a life without major impacts?

In fact, being diagnosed with HF doesn’t mean your heart is going to stop working overnight.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a serious, chronic condition that occurs when the heart becomes unable to pump enough blood around the body. and to relax and receive blood again in a normal way.

Which means, the blood may not be able to supply the proper nutrients and oxygen to our body so that it can function properly.

In Portugal, heart failure affects about 4% of the population and it is estimated that its prevalence could increase between 50 and 70% by 2030. As we can see, these are worrying numbers and it is therefore essential to raise awareness of the factors risk and warning signs to be aware of.

Know the risk factors for heart failure

Heart failure usually develops because the person has or has had a health problem that has affected the heart in some way.. For example: heart attack, coronary artery disease or even high blood pressure.

Deep down, this type of problem can end up leaving injuries or putting too much strain on our heart – which often ends up causing HF.

We emphasize that there are not only these, but take note of the reference risk factors:

  • smoking;
  • high cholesterol;
  • diabetes;
  • sedentary lifestyle;
  • obesity;
  • family history of heart disease or genetic mutations.

What are the associated warning signs?

As with any other disease, heart failure also has warning signs that we should be aware of, such as:

  • fainting;
  • extreme tiredness;
  • dizziness;
  • difficulty breathing to the point of limiting physical activity or forcing you to sleep with an extra pillow;
  • swelling in the legs or abdomen;
  • constant tachycardia;
  • weight gain;
  • increased frequency and need to urinate at night.

Having just one of these symptoms may not necessarily mean you have a serious health problem like HF. However, when the symptoms are accentuated and prolonged, medical help must be sought immediately in order to avoid a serious situation and to understand whether there is, in fact, heart failure.

Can the age factor also influence the appearance of HF?

There are several people who question themselves about the age factor associated with the appearance of diseases in general. Despite this, the truth is that when it comes to heart failure, this it can develop at any age.

However, it is a disease that is closely associated with the aging of the population.even constituting the main cause of hospitalization in people over 65 years of age.

How is the diagnosis made?

Diagnosing a disease like HF is not always easy. Mainly because the symptoms are not that specific and can easily be confused with other diseases.

However, The diagnosis can only be made through the clinical history and some tests such as:

From the moment the diagnosis is made by the family doctor, patients should be referred to a cardiology consultation specializing in heart failure.

Is heart failure treatable?

The answer is yes, there is treatment for HF and it should always be done individually for each person. This happens because everything depends on the degree of heart failure and, of course, on the evolution of the disease.

Despite this, treatment usually consists of:

  • medicines (which must be administered without interruptions);
  • lifestyle changes (how to have a healthy diet, not smoke and exercise);
  • interventions (such as catheterization, surgery or even the placement of a pacemaker).

In cases where heart failure is very serious and no longer responds to the indicated treatment, doctors may still recommend heart transplantation.

What to do to prevent IC

In most cases, heart failure can be prevented. But for this to happen, it is necessary to prevent and avoid the appearance of risk factors such as:

  • tobacco;
  • sedentary lifestyle;
  • high cholesterol;
  • arterial hypertension;
  • diabetes;
  • alcohol consumption;
  • obesity.

Thus, the ideal is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, practice physical exercise on a regular basis, not smoke, maintain a balanced diet and not drink alcohol.

We know that it’s not always easy to take a moment to reflect on our fast-paced daily routines between home and work. However, it is crucial that we take a little out of our days to think about how we can change some less healthy habits.

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