break your heart
When we hear that someone has been diagnosed by doctors as having
heart failure, it can be quite frightening - bringing up visions
of the poor person's heart failing in its duty and stopping in mid
'Heart failure' really means is that the heart (which in effect
is a mechanical pump made of muscle whose job is to pump blood through
the body) is not pumping efficiently.
This can happen either because the heart muscle has become weakened,
or because there is a fault in the valves that control the flow
of blood through and out of the heart.
Actually, the heart consists of TWO pumps that work in
unison - a smaller right side which pumps blood to the lungs, where
it acquires oxygen from the air we breathe, and a larger left side
which has to push this oxygen-rich blood around the entire body.
Although it is theoretically possible for only one side of the heart
to develop failure, heart failure usually affects both sides of
such a heart is not pumping blood through the circulation with adequate
force, the blood flow is sluggish and fluid tends to gradually leak
out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues.
ensuing congestion has given rise to the term Congestive Cardiac
Failure (CCF) which implies that both sides of the heart are not
working properly. When the right side of the heart fails to pump
properly, blood pools in the body and causes swelling of the legs
and the abdomen. In left sided failure, fluid collects in the lungs
and results in breathlessness, especially if you are lying down.
Breathlessness on physical exertion is the main symptom.With
worsening failure, this breathlessness comes on with milder and
milder forms of exertion - until in the most severe forms of heart
failure the patient is breathless even at rest. Other features of
cardiac failure are swelling of the feet and abdomen, lethargy,
tiredness and a constant feeling of nausea.
failure usually develops as a consequence of high blood pressure
- the simple explanation is that constantly having to pump blood
out against a high pressure gradient wears the heart out.
heart valves are known to result in failure. Damage to the muscular
walls of the heart - from blocked coronary arteries or excessive
alcohol consumption - can also give rise to failure.
its frightening name, heart failure usually responds well to medications
and can be kept under control for many years. If untreated, however,
it puts a great strain on the body which becomes gradually swollen
to help the failing heart
your weight if you are overweight - the less pounds you carry
around, the less effort is required from your heart.
your intake of fluid to less than 1.5 litres per day.
As far as possible, cut down your intake of salt - because salt
tends to retain fluid in the body.
smoking, because smoking narrows your arteries and reduces the
blood flow in your circulation even further.
common medications your doctor may prescribe are Diuretics (which
get rid of the excess fluid in your body by making you pass it out
as urine) and ACE inhibitors (which open up your blood vessels,
reduce your pressure and improve the pumping action of your heart).
You may also be prescribed a tablet Digoxin which regularizes and
strengthens the contractions of your heart.