Heart failure: Get informed

This cardiovascular disease occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. The number of patients with heart failure increases each year as the population ages.


Heart Failure

Two types of heart failure

There are two types of heart failure: systolic heart failure (systole is the contraction phase of the heart) and diastolic heart failure (diastole is the rest phase of the heart). The first is the most common form and corresponds to a defect in blood expulsion while the second corresponds to a defect in ventricular filling and usually occurs in the elderly. In some cases, the two forms of heart failure may be associated.

The causes of heart failure

The most common causes of heart failure are high blood pressure and a history of heart attacks. The electrocardiogram (ECG) is used to identify cardiac abnormalities and to guide the diagnosis, which will be confirmed by an echocardiogram.

Symptoms of heart failure

Heart failure manifests itself in the following symptoms:
- Dyspnea: this is the main symptom of heart failure. It corresponds to a shortness of breath that appears with effort. In more serious cases, dyspnea is also present at rest;
- Fatigue: the patient with heart failure experiences significant and constant fatigue. The heart sends less blood to the muscles, so the supply of nutrients and oxygen is reduced. This causes significant fatigue even after a small effort;
- palpitations;
- edema: swelling of certain parts of the body such as legs, ankles, liver (hepatomegaly) are characteristic signs of heart failure;
- a significant and rapid weight gain;
- coughing episodes.

Treatments for heart failure

The management of heart failure includes, on the one hand, drug treatment and, on the other hand, the implementation of dietary measures. It will have to take into account the stage of the disease. The severity of heart failure is assessed using the New York Heart Association (NYHA) classification:
- stage I: absence of symptoms and no limitations in the performance of daily activities;
- stage II:  absence of discomfort at rest, but appearance of symptoms during physical activity;
- stage III: absence of discomfort at rest, but even slight physical activity leads to significant discomfort;
- stage IV: severe limitation with symptoms even at rest.

The treatment of heart failure includes vasodilators, such as an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor and beta-blockers that will reduce blood pressure and heart rate.

The patient should also follow lifestyle and dietary rules by reducing the risk factors associated with heart failure. Quitting smoking and alcohol is essential. The patient should also follow a low-sodium diet (low in salt) and practice regular physical activity, adapted to their condition. In the most serious cases, heart transplantation can be used.

Published 12 Sep 2017

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Author: Carenity Editorial Team, Editorial Team

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