American Heart Month is all about raising awareness on the importance of heart health. This week in particular brings the attention to a chronic condition known as heart failure, which currently affects nearly 5.7 million adults in the US.
Contrary to its name, heart failure does not actually mean that the heart has stopped functioning altogether. Instead it means that the heart is no longer functioning at its optimal capacity. Your heart is responsible for pumping oxygen and nutrient rich blood throughout your body, which allows other cells and organs to function properly. However, when the heart becomes weak and is unable to deliver the proper nourishment to the rest of the body, heart failure may occur.
If left untreated, heart failure can cause serious damage to the heart and other organs. The heart may become enlarged in an effort to keep up with its workload or beat faster than normal to keep blood flowing throughout the body. Your body will also naturally direct the majority of its blood to the heart and brain, leaving vital organs such as the lungs and kidneys undernourished. It’s important to note that anything causing damage to the heart (such as heart disease) may be a contributing factor to heart failure.
There are many signs and symptoms of heart failure, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent cough
- Elevated heart rate
If you consistently experience two of more of these symptoms, call your doctor to schedule a cardiac evaluation. Since there is no cure for heart failure, prevention is crucial. You can minimize your risk of heart disease by:
- Staying physically active
- Minimizing daily sodium intake
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Quitting smoking
With the help of a dedicated healthcare team, it’s still possible to live a full life even with heart failure.