Heart failure – running on empty

Definition

Heart failure is a disease which in most cases strikes suddenly after an episode of heart disease such as a heart attack, preventing the heart from pumping sufficient blood due to an excessively weak heart muscle. As a result, the whole body and kidneys in particular are supplied with insufficient blood and are no longer capable of functioning normally.

Source: www.fmcoeur.com

One million people in France suffer from heart failure affecting either one part of their heart (which is referred to as left or right-sided heart failure) or the entire heart, which is known as total heart failure. The progression of this disease is chronic. It is increasingly common due to an ageing population and rising numbers of people suffering from heart diseases. However, contrary to what you might think, it is not a disease that is confined to old people. Children and pregnant women may also be at-risk.

The symptoms include breathlessness, fatigue and exhaustion, loss of appetite or sudden weight gain and accumulations of fluid in the lungs or other parts of the body, especially the ankles and feet. This accumulation of fluid is caused by kidney dysfunction due to insufficient blood flow. Excessive fluid in the lungs makes it more difficult for patients to breath and can lead to an acute pulmonary oedema which may prove fatal if not treated quickly.

The causes of heart failure

The most common causes are a damaged heart muscle following a heart attack, untreated arterial hypertension and unhealthy lifestyle.

Here is a list of just some of the possible causes of heart disease:

  • Poor heart valve function due to narrow or leaky valves (heart valve diseases)
  • An infection causing inflammation of the heart muscle (endocarditis or myocarditis)
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart muscle diseases of unknown origin
  • Other health problems such as thyroid diseases and anaemia

Prevention and treatment

Although there is no cure for heart failure, it is possible to control the disease through lifestyle changes, especially in terms of diet and physical exercise, which can strengthen the heart and improve blood flow. Sufferers and those wishing to take precautions should follow the guidelines below (this is not a comprehensive list):

  • Cut down salt (sodium) to no more than 1,500-2,000 mg per day
  • Cut down on fat
  • Eat whole grain food
  • Eat plenty of fibre
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Try and eat lean meat where possible
  • Do not drink more than 1.5 to 2 litres per day
  • Cut down on alcohol and coffee
  • Avoid smoking
  • Get sufficient sleep and avoid stress

Several types of medicine are also available to improve quality of life for patients suffering from heart failure:

  • Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Beta blockers
  • Aldosterone receptor antagonists (mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists)
  • Diuretics (tablets that encourage urination)
  • Digoxin
  • Neprilysin inhibitors/angiotensin II AT1 receptor blockers

Surgery may also be considered depending on how serious the disease is. Please contact your physician for further information. S/he may perform a number of tests (blood tests, ECG, chest X-rays, echocardiogram, stress test, coronary angiography) to determine whether you are suffering from heart failure.

Sources: www.fmcoeur.comwww.sante-medecine.journaldesfemmes.com

A range of pill dispensers for heart failure

In order to control heart failure, it is important to take your medication regularly. To ensure you do not forget to take your medication, Pilbox offers a number of pill dispensers to suit your requirements which are guaranteed to make everyday life and management of your treatment easier. The Pilbox Smart pill dispenser model is particularly well-suited to treatments for heart disease with slots specially designed to accommodate sachets containing treatments such as anti-platelet drugs.

Medikamentenspender für Herzkreislauferkrankungen