Heart Failure Awareness Week: What You Can Do About It

Heart failure affects nearly 6 million Americans. Every year, around 670,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure. It’s the most common reason for adults over the age of 65 to visit the hospital.

Heart failure, known as congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart muscle is unable to pump blood as efficiently as it should. Shortness of breath occurs when blood clots and fluid builds up in the lungs.

Since this month we are celebrating Heart Failure Awareness, let me take you on understanding what is heart failure and what you can do about it.

What is congestive heart failure?

Heart failure does not indicate that the heart has stopped pumping blood. Instead, it means the heart is less efficient than normal.  Blood passes through the heart and body at a slower rate for a variety of reasons, and heart pressure rises. As such, the heart is unable to supply adequate oxygen and nutrients to the body.

The heart chambers may respond by either expanding to hold more blood for pumping across the body or by stiffening and thickening. This keeps the blood flowing, but the heart muscle walls may weaken with time and be unable to pump as effectively. 

As a result, the kidneys may cause the body to retain fluid (water) and salt. The body becomes congested when fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs. The term used to describe the ailment is congestive heart failure.

Heart failure can affect either the right or left side of the heart, or both. Acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing) conditions are also possible.

  • The symptoms of acute heart failure may suddenly appear but go away quickly after.   After a heart attack, this condition can occur. It could also be caused by a complication with the heart valves, which regulate blood flow in the heart.
  • Symptoms of chronic heart failure are persistent and do not improve over time. The majority of heart failure situations are long-term.

What are the various types of heart failure?

Heart failure can be diastolic or systolic. Here are the types of heart failure and what they are: 

1. Left-sided heart failure

The most prevalent type of heart failure is left-sided heart failure. Your heart’s left ventricle is placed in the bottom left corner. This area is responsible for delivering oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body.

When the left ventricle fails to pump effectively, it causes left-sided heart failure. As a result, your body won’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. The blood instead backs up into your lungs, producing shortness of breath and fluid accumulation. 

2. Right-sided heart failure

The right heart ventricle is in charge of pumping blood to your lungs so that oxygen can be collected. When the right side of your heart is unable to do its job properly, it’s called right-sided heart failure.

The most common cause for this is left-sided heart failure. Left-sided heart failure causes blood to accumulate in the lungs, making the right ventricle work harder. This can put excessive strain on the right side of the heart, causing it to fail.

Other disorders, such as lung illness or valve disease, can induce right-sided heart failure. Swelling of the lower limbs or abdomen is a sign of right-sided heart failure. Fluid backup in the legs, feet, and abdomen causes this edema. 

3. Diastolic heart failure

When the heart muscle stiffens too much, diastolic heart failure occurs. Because of the stiffness, which is usually caused by heart disease, your heart struggles to fill with blood. This is referred to as diastolic dysfunction. It reduces blood flow to other parts of your body.

Females are more likely to suffer from diastolic heart failure compared to males. 

4. Systolic heart failure

When the heart’s muscle loses its ability to contract, systolic heart failure ensues. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body by contracting. Systolic dysfunction is the medical term for this condition, which typically occurs when your heart is weak or enlarged.

Males are more likely to suffer from systolic heart failure than females.

Risk Factors Associated With Congestive Heart Failure

It can affect anyone at any age. However, it is more common in the elderly, so age is an essential risk factor to consider. Once a person reaches 65, the chances of developing heart failure are significantly increased. 

The following are other potential danger factors to be aware of:

  • Hypertension
  • Blockages in the heart’s arteries are caused by fat accumulation (coronary artery disease)
  • Heart attack  
  • A history of a heart murmur or abnormalities to the heart valves (valvular heart disease)
  • Ailment of the heart’s muscles and enlargement of the heart (cardiomyopathy)
  • Congenital heart disease
  • A history of an enlarged heart runs in the family (Familial cardiomyopathy)
  • Diabetes\Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Severe illness of the lungs

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Heart failure can lead to a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Weariness of fatigue
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Swelling of the abdomen, shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the lower legs and ankles
  • Being unable to take deep breaths while lying down.
  • Enlarged veins on the neck

Tips on living a healthy lifestyle

Changes, no matter how small, can result in a huge difference. 

By following the recommended diet and exercise, it can help alleviate the symptoms of your heart failure and improve your overall well-being. 

Here are lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health. 

1. Quit your vices such as smoking 

Tobacco smoke releases nicotine into the bloodstream, which raises heart rate and blood pressure for a short period of time. Stickiness in the blood vessels that supply the heart is a possible side effect of smoking.

Heart failure symptoms are more likely to improve in smokers who have given up smoking.

2. Manage your stress

Try to sit peacefully for 15 to 20 minutes a day and visualize a serene landscape. You can also try yoga or meditation classes as an alternative.

Counting to ten before replying when you are upset can help you lower your stress.

3. Exercise Regularly 

Consider consulting with your doctor before going on an exercise program. Plan your daily physical activity so that it becomes a habitual part of your routine. Consider an organized rehabilitation program if you are unable to engage in moderate activity.

4. Avoid or limit alcohol intake

Consume alcohol in moderation if you choose to do so. Men should limit themselves to one to two drinks per day, while women should limit themselves to one drink per day. Make sure to consult your doctor to know if you can drink alcohol.

5. Eat healthier

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils as part of an overall balanced dietary pattern. Saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages should also be 


You can read more about having a heart-healthy lifestyle here. 

Living with Heart Failure, Managing Your Symptoms 

The celebration of Heart Failure Awareness Week is happening earlier this month; it’s time for people to be more mindful of their lifestyle. 

Heart failure is typically a chronic illness that requires continuous treatment to avoid harmful complications. When left untreated, it can cause the heart to weaken to the point where it becomes a life-threatening issue.

It’s critical to understand that heart failure can happen to anyone at any time. It’s important to take preventive actions for your to ensure your heart is healthy.  Always consult your doctor if you experience new or unexplained symptoms that could signal heart failure.

If you need a virtual consultation about your heart health today, feel free to reach out to me for a telehealth consultation. 

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