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You can improve your odds against heart failure

drawing chart heartbeat

By Krista Joseph, DNP, CRNP, and Ravi Ramani, MD

Heart failure is a serious health problem that usually gets worse over time. Heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump blood well enough to meet the body’s needs.

People with heart failure easily become tired and short of breath. They also have problems eliminating fluid and waste. Excess fluid in the lungs, belly, or legs is also common. Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped beating. Damage to the heart muscle or valves are the top causes of heart failure.

About 4.9 million Americans live with heart failure. While heart failure can happen at any age, it becomes more common as people get older. There are about 400,000 new cases each year. It is a serious medical problem that can reduce lifespan.

In most cases, heart failure is progressive. That means it usually gets worse over time. In severe cases, a heart transplant or an artificial heart pump may be the only treatment option. However, heart failure can be treated in many people with:

  • Medicine
  • Consistent doctor visits
  • A healthy lifestyle

The best treatment for heart failure is prevention. Most cases of heart failure occur from common preventable diseases. Those diseases include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. These diseases are called health risks.

How do you prevent heart failure? A good way is to identify and manage your health risks. You should have regular medical checkups and health screenings. It is also important to take ownership of your own health.

Actions that help include:

  • Managing your weight.
  • Stopping smoking.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption.
  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Avoiding illicit drugs.
  • Exercising daily.

At your next doctor’s visit, make sure to ask if you are up to date on your health screenings.