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How To Recognize and Treat Physical and Visual Signs of Heart Failure

Featuring: Cardiologist Kulpreet Barn, MD

As we get older, it’s not unusual to find that extra weight can settle around our waists without obvious changes in our diet or exercise levels. But when that happens, it’s not typical that our feet would gain weight too.

Shoes and/or pants getting tight over the course of a few months could indicate fluid accumulation from heart failure. Swelling of legs, feet and even the abdomen are signs that the heart muscle is not pumping blood efficiently through the body, causing congestion that may or may not be accompanied by other possible symptoms of heart failure:

  • Getting winded easily
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Unexplained fatigue or weakness
  • Difficulty breathing while lying down
  • Heart palpitations

Heart failure is not an incident, but a potentially fatal process that can significantly affect quality of life along the way if not treated and closely managed.

When it starts to have trouble meeting its workload, the amazing heart muscle tries to compensate – by stretching to contract more vigorously (enlarging) and beating faster to up its output (palpitations.) But that isn’t sustainable. A heart muscle that gets baggy or stiff can’t deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body, or do its part to filter excess fluids from it, prompting a cascade of systemic problems.

Early detection can delay its progression and prolong life while reducing symptoms. “If you seek care, take your medications, follow up with your specialist, you can have many, many years – productive years,” says cardiologist Kulpreet Barn, MD. “You can certainly lead a normal life if you follow a treatment plan with your doctors and modify your risk factors.”

KYW’s Rasa Kaye talks with Dr. Barn about diagnosing, staging and treating heart failure – as well as how to prevent it.

Are you at risk for heart failure?

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