It's World Diabetes Day! 1...
Your heart is probably one of the most important organs of the body. With the help of the blood circulatory system, our heart pumps the fresh blood filled with oxygen from the lungs to every corner of the body, and returns the “used blood” carried with wastes to the lungs and kidneys for expulsion.
But what if such a vital organ fails?
Heart failure is a clinical syndrome (a collection of signs and symptoms) that represents the end stage of most heart diseases. The most common cause of heart failure is ischemic heart disease (68%). This is one of the important reasons why you should always take care of your blood pressure, blood lipid levels and blood sugar level — because worsening high blood pressure and diabetes can contribute to ischemic heart disease, which makes you more likely to develop heart failure.
Oh, and did we mention heart failure is highly lethal? Data has shown that the death rate after diagnosis of HF in the United States was around 10% at 30 days, 20-30% at 1 year and 45-60% over 5 years of follow-up. Heart failure is even deadlier than many cancers such as colorectal cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer!
Image credit to Theresa Chiechi / Verywell
Most heart failure cases are long-term in nature, and are commonly seen in elderly.
The development process of heart failure is complex. But to put it simply, let’s be reminded that how a heart pumps is through contraction and relaxation. Therefore, heart failure is said to be driven mainly by two things:
The heart muscle does not contract properly (called systolic dysfunction)
The heart cannot relax properly and thus leads to impaired filling of blood into the heart during relaxation. (called diastolic dysfunction)
These two phenomena can happen as a result of your underlying cardiovascular disease. When they happen, the amount of blood pumped through your heart is reduced.
Your heart would not let that happen, however; the heart muscle would stick to its duty to keep you alive. Hence, the heart compensates, for better or worse, through the following mechanisms:
Your heart grows itself to develop more heart muscles to increase the pumping force, so that more blood can be pumped through the heart. This may work for a while; but after some time, the heart becomes bigger and thicker (called cardiac hypertrophy), which actually leads to deterioration of heart function, because those newly developed muscles are weak. This process of the heart muscle becoming bigger is called cardiac remodelling, and is commonly seen after a heart attack.
Your body’s nervous and hormone systems work together to increase the amount of blood pump through the heart:
Sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight-or-flight’ response)
Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, which leads to higher blood pressure
Vasopressin, in which makes your kidney to retain more salt and water
These compensatory mechanisms are just our body’s ways to try to protect ourselves when it senses a drop in the amount of blood pumped through the heart. Yet, they can do more harm than good in the long run, thus leading to heart failure.
If you have long-term heart failure, make sure you know how to self-manage your condition. This includes recognising the change in your heart failure signs and symptoms. E.g. a sudden weight gain of more than 2kg in 3 days may indicate a worsening in heart failure.
Discuss with your healthcare provider and family members on your condition’s prognosis and make realistic decisions and plans. This is important for severe heart failure, which is more deadly than many cancers.
It has been shown to reduce the risk of hospital admissions, improve quality of lives and enhance exercise capacity among heart failure patients.
Some heart failure patients are required to restrict their fluid intake to 1 to 1.5 litres per day to reduce the burden of the heart.
It’s common for heart failure patients to experience sexual dysfunction due to physiologic and psychological changes. Have this conversation with your doctor and explore various approaches that may be useful, don’t be shy!
Heart failure is a complex medical condition that requires various medications for treatment, such as:
Diuretics (E.g. frusemide, spironolactone) — To help your body get rid of excess fluids and thereby reducing the burden of your heart
Inhibitors of the Renin Angiotensin System - Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE-I) and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB) (E.g. perindopril, enalapril, losartan, telmisartan) — These medications should be given to all heart failure patients, as it is supported by scientific evidence that they could increase the livelihood of heart failure patients. They lower blood pressure and lessen the burden on the heart. However, do take note that you should only take either ACEI-I or ARB; the combination of both is not required and can lead to adverse effects.
Beta-blockers (E.g. bisoprolol, carvedilol) — Beta-blockers slow down the heart rate and have been found to be beneficial for patients with moderate heart failure.
Others, such as sacubitril/valsartan (Entresto), ivabradine, isosorbide dinitrate and digoxin
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Disclaimer: As a service to our users and general public, DOC2US provides health education contents. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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