How can I Reduce My Risk of Heart Failure?
Ken Dizon, MD, is a cardiologist on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. His office can be reached at (602)298-7777.
Question: What exactly is heart failure? How can it be prevented?
Answer: A diagnosis of heart failure, generally speaking, means the heart has weakened and is not functioning properly. The weakened heart is unable to pump as much blood through the body as it should, in turn limiting the entire body’s ability to function properly.
Heart failure is not a condition that develops overnight. It occurs over time and is often the result of a combination of risk factors, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and even smoking.
The gradual progression of heart failure can make it difficult for people to recognize that something is wrong. Symptoms, which include weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath, slowly worsen until people can no longer perform the same physical activities or routines they once could. By the time they realize something is wrong and see their doctor, there may already be significant changes to the heart.
Heart failure is commonly diagnosed and managed by a primary care physician, bringing in a cardiologist for cases that are complicated or that need greater expertise. While no cure exists for heart failure, there are treatment options for reducing symptoms, improving underlying medical conditions and managing the patient’s overall health. Lifestyle modifications, patient education, medications and surgery are some of the common strategies physicians use. However, advanced cases of heart failure can be severely debilitating and extremely difficult to manage. Some patients may require heart transplantation, but only if a donor heart becomes available.
The best way to detect or prevent heart failure is by taking an active role in your health by making healthy lifestyle choices and seeing your doctor regularly. Also, being aware of the risk factors and symptoms of heart failure and taking action when they first appear greatly improves the likelihood of early detection, more effective treatment and better outcomes.
Reviewed March 2010