Do You Have Signs of Heart Failure?
Featuring: Cardiologist Kulpreet Barn, MD
Problems with the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood are defined as heart failure, among the fastest growing and most expensive Medicare diagnoses. About a million people are diagnosed with heart failure in the United States every year.
“It is still a fast-growing disease, and some of that is not because we’re not good at what we’re doing, it’s because we ARE good at what we’re doing,” Deborah cardiologist Kulpreet Barn, MD says. “There are better medications, these patients are living longer, but heart failure is still a big problem in the United States and around the world.”
Heart failure is generally a disease of the elderly, as it can take years for the heart muscle to weaken to the point where it just can’t meet its workload. It’s linked to other conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and infections; but those that directly impact the cardiac muscle — coronary artery disease, heart attack, valve disorders, myocarditis and cardiomyopathy – are major causes of heart failure.
That’s why risk factors for heart disease overall are risk factors for heart failure in particular:
- Advanced age
- High cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- Alcohol use
- Unhealthy diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
When oxygenated blood doesn’t get to organs and tissues, symptoms caused by that failure increase and other disease processes can begin or become more severe.
The most common symptoms of heart failure include:
- Getting winded easily
- Exercise intolerance
- Unexplained fatigue or weakness
- Unexplained weight changes
- Swelling in hands or feet
- Difficulty breathing while lying down, possibly with a stubborn cough
- Heart palpitations
Dr. Barn stresses the importance of paying attention not only to new symptoms, but changes in overall wellbeing that might be a tipoff to a struggling heart:
“If there’s a change in your body that requires further workup – even if you don’t suspect heart failure, what if you have a lung problem? You should get yourself properly evaluated and checked out, especially if you have a change in your symptoms.”
KYW’s Rasa Kaye talks with Dr. Kulpreet Barn about diagnosing, treating, and managing heart failure at Deborah Heart and Lung Center, as well as how to prevent it.