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Fatigue to Breathlessness: 5 signs to recognise the early signs of heart failure

The prevalence of heart failure in India is around 10 million. Therefore, it becomes important to address how to recognise the causes and early signs of this condition to address them at the earliest.

Written By : Health Desk Edited By : Kristina Das
New Delhi
Published on: April 17, 2024 11:52 IST
heart failure signs
Image Source : FREEPIK Signs to recognise the early signs of heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition where the heart muscles do not pump enough blood to meet the body’s requirements. It happens when the heart muscle weakens, stiffens, or sustains damage that impairs its capacity to efficiently pump blood throughout the body. In India, heart-related issues or cardiovascular diseases are a major concern, with heart failure affecting a significant number of people in the country. The fact that heart failure has a poor prognosis highlights its seriousness and the need to create more awareness regarding the condition. 

Understanding the causes of heart failure

According to Dr Rajneesh Malhotra, Vice Chairman & Head - CTVS, Cardiac Sciences, Cardiac Surgery (CTVS), Robotic Surgery, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, heart failure can be caused by various factors, including coronary artery disease (CAD), high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, heart valve disorders, previous heart attacks, diabetes, obesity, smoking, unrestricted alcohol consumption, and other medical conditions. CAD occurs when the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become narrowed or blocked, reducing blood flow and potentially causing heart failure. High blood pressure forces the heart to work harder, weakening it and increasing the risk of heart failure. Cardiomyopathy weakens the heart muscle, and heart valve disorders disrupt blood flow, leading to heart failure. Other medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, kidney disease, and certain infections, can also contribute to heart failure development.

Identifying the initial indications of heart failure

Recognising early signs of heart failure is crucial for timely diagnosis and subsequent intervention. Key early signs include shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling, persistent coughing or wheezing, and an increased heart rate. 

  1. Shortness of breath is a common symptom, especially during exertion.
  2. Fatigue and weakness are signs of heart failure, as the heart's reduced pumping ability causes organs and tissues to lack adequate oxygen supply. 
  3. Swelling is another common early sign, as fluid retention causes blood to back up in veins, leading to fluid leakage into surrounding tissues. 
  4. Chronic coughing or wheezing may indicate fluid accumulation in the lungs.
  5. Regular monitoring of heart rate can help identify potential heart problems early on.

Treating heart failure

Heart failure can be managed through lifestyle modifications such as a heart-healthy diet low in sodium and saturated fats, regular exercise, therapies, surgical intervention, and medication. When alternative therapies are no longer successful in treating severe heart failure, left ventricular assist devices, or LVADs, become extremely important. These are mechanical pumps that are surgically inserted into the body to assist the heart in pumping blood throughout the body. Effective management of heart failure requires routine monitoring by a medical team. This could entail routine symptom assessments, medication modifications, hydration status monitoring, and other pertinent parameter tracking.

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