Doctors discuss signs, treatment and self-care to beat heart failure

India has one of the highest numbers of heart failure patients in the world. A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the annual number of deaths from cardiovascular disease (including heart failure) in India has doubled in a decade. Prevalence rates in India have been estimated over the past decades to range from 1.6% to 7.4% in rural populations and from 1% to 13.2% in urban populations. Without proper treatment, heart failure has a mortality rate of over 30%.

People need to be aware of this condition so that they can get themselves examined, diagnosed, and treated, if necessary. For this purpose, The Times of India, in partnership with Novartis, has spearheaded an initiative called Beat Heart Failure. Several panel discussions with around 94 doctors including cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and specialists from 32 top hospitals across the country, such as Fortis Hospitals, Manipal Hospitals, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Apollo Hospital, CK Birla talking about the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, management, treatment options, as well as prevention of heart failure. One of the first things doctors did during the discussion was to bust the myth that heart failure is the same thing as a heart attack. Heart failure is a progressive weakening of the heart muscles which causes the heart to reduce the pumping of oxygenated blood and nutrients to various parts of the body. If left undiagnosed and untreated, heart failure can become fatal. But, when diagnosed and treated correctly, it can be managed well enough for the patient to live a nearly normal, healthy, and long life. From medications to devices and surgeries, there are different treatment options that a specialist can prescribe to the patient. What works best, however, in cases of heart failure, is lifestyle modification. From monitoring risk factors, signs and symptoms to regular checkups, a patient can easily manage heart failure. Symptoms of heart failure can differ from patient to patient, depending on the severity of heart muscle damage as well as other factors such as age and comorbidities. Patients with heart failure may experience symptoms such as increasing fatigue that was not present before, shortness of breath during daily activities, inability to exercise, fluid accumulation in the body, legs, lungs or stomach resulting in swelling, chest pain, jaw or hand pain, etc. Children and teens may not really have any serious symptoms other than fatigue and shortness of breath. Many doctors at the roundtables suggested that if Indians are more genetically predisposed to heart failure, the increase in co-morbidities such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, as well as the increase in infections such as rheumatic heart disease caused by streptococcal pneumonia and tuberculosis of the pericardium are other causes. It is of utmost importance that people get regular checkups to monitor themselves for heart failure. Doctors have suggested regular check-ups for people with symptoms, especially children and teenagers, people with heart failure and high blood pressure in their family history, and people over 30. The roundtables affirmed that heart failure is not a death sentence. When people are diagnosed with heart failure, they become sorry. However, heart failure can be successfully managed in adults and reversed in children and adolescents, with proper treatment and lifestyle modifications. After being diagnosed, a specialist would provide the patient with treatment options. Depending on the severity of the case, treatment options can vary from various drug combinations to inserting devices such as a pacemaker, ICD, or LVAD. In some extreme cases, surgery may be suggested. In children and adolescents, it may involve repairing a damaged valve or even replacing it with a graft. In adults and children, if the devices don’t work, a heart transplant can be done. Heart failure is not completely curable in adults and medications must be taken throughout life. Therefore, it is very important that patients stick to their medications, even if their symptoms resolve, in consultation with their cardiologist. In addition to medication, a patient should take care of their own health by monitoring their restricted fluid intake and fluid retention, monitoring existing comorbidities, reporting new illnesses, if any, to their doctor, doing regular exercise, controlling body weight, salt intake, avoiding alcohol and tobacco consumption, and staying in regular contact with their doctor. Because heart failure progresses slowly, it can be controlled with prompt intervention. However, this requires complete patient compliance. Beat Heart Failure, an initiative of The Times of India in partnership with Novartis, has had a profound impact on heart failure awareness. The discussions held with various physicians were rich in valid information and on the signs and symptoms of heart failure, as well as the appropriate treatment, risk factors as well as prevention. In many cases, people contact doctors late because they think the symptoms of heart failure are either old age or just plain exhaustion.

The campaign has been running for two and a half years and has just completed its fourth phase and has been aggressive enough to educate a genetically predisposed population like our country about heart failure and how to catch it in time.

Heart failure is an unfortunate disease. However, with awareness, diagnosis, treatment, regular check-ups and lifestyle changes, one can always maintain optimism and hope. Remember that heart failure is not about stopping. It’s about starting life in a new way. To learn more about how to manage heart failure, visit Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is not to promote any medical procedures or medications and/or to recommend a certain doctor. For any specific health concerns, please consult your licensed physician. The visitor should exercise caution and rational thought when reading and implementing the above content. The above content does not claim to cure, prevent or diagnose any disease or health condition.


(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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