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What is heart failure?

The heart beats more than 100,000 times every day to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body through blood. The heart may fail for a variety of reasons, preventing it from pumping blood properly. This is called heart failure. Heart failure is referred to as โ€œthe end point of heart disease.โ€ This is because 6-7 out of 10 people die within 5 years of the onset.

Symptoms of heart failure

The most common symptom of heart failure is shortness of breath even with slight movement. Chronic fatigue, swelling of the body, and indigestion also appear. It can appear for a variety of reasons, including respiratory diseases that cause shortness of breath. Therefore, not all dyspnea is evidence of heart failure.

However, shortness of breath that is severe when lying down but relieves when sitting, and shortness of breath that appears suddenly at night are likely symptoms of heart failure. Frequent fatigue, reduced exercise capacity, and sudden weight gain may also occur. Heart failure occurs in 1% of the population under the age of 60, but more than 12.6% in those over the age of 80.

Causes of heart failure

Common causes of heart failure include coronary artery disease such as angina pectoris and myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, hypertension, diabetes, anemia, and kidney disease. Obesity, smoking, and excessive drinking are risk factors for heart failure.

In the case of cardiomyopathy such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy, there may be genetic factors. To diagnose it, blood tests, X-rays, electrocardiography, and echocardiography are performed. Depending on the cause of the disease, exercise stress test, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), coronary angiography, etc. may be required.

Treatments for heart failure

Treatments vary depending on the cause of heart failure. If there is no structural heart disease that requires surgery, it is treated with drugs first. Recently, various drugs that increase the survival rate have been continuously developed.

If treatment does not improve, cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) may be considered. To prevent sudden death, implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is sometimes used.

Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or heart transplantation may be considered for patients with end-stage heart failure who do not respond to drug and surgical treatment.

Preventive measures for heart failure

Aerobic exercise significantly reduces the risk of heart failure. It is recommended to do it 3-5 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Depending on the physical strength of the exerciser, it is good to divide it into 5-10 minute increments.

For heart failure patients, it is recommended to consume less than 7-8 g of salt per day. Avoid broths, which are usually high in salt. Bread and noodles also contain salt, so be careful. Quitting smoking and alcohol is essential.

Hypertension, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), anemia, depression, and sleep apnea, which are common in heart failure patients, should be treated simultaneously.

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