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Heart Care

July 2013

More Americans Expected to Face Heart Failure

We're living longer these days. Unfortunately, a longer life doesn't necessarily mean a healthier one. Many Americans are struggling with chronic health conditions-and even more of us will in the future. Case in point: heart failure.

An unsettling estimate

Researchers from the American Heart Association recently set out to determine the growing prevalence of heart failure in the U.S. Analyzing data from a national health survey and using population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, they estimated that 46 percent more Americans will face heart failure by 2030. That equals more than 8 million people.

Photo of a man playing chess

When you have heart failure, your heart isn't able to pump enough blood for your body's needs. It may be too weak to move blood to your lungs, where the blood is replenished with oxygen. Or it may not be able to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to all parts of your body. In some people, the heart may have trouble doing both.

Anyone can develop heart failure-no matter your race or your sex. It occurs because the heart muscle has been damaged. The most common cause is coronary artery disease. Other conditions that may damage the heart muscle include a heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, an irregular heartbeat, and a heart valve problem.

Signs to heed

You may not immediately notice heart failure. Without any symptoms, a person can have early stage heart failure and not know it. What's more, some of its leading causes-such as diabetes and high blood pressure-usually don't have any symptoms either. So you may not realize your heart is being damaged in the first place.

As your heart weakens further, though, you may start to feel tired and short of breath. Other symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Wheezing or coughing

  • Swelling of the abdomen and lower body parts, such as the feet and ankles

  • Racing heartbeat

  • Lack of appetite

  • Confusion or memory loss

If you suffer from more than one of these symptoms, talk with your health care provider. By identifying heart failure early, you can take steps to ease symptoms and prevent further damage. Treatment may include lifestyle changes or medication. Advanced heart failure may require implanting a device that helps the heart work properly. If heart failure advances to the point that other treatments are no longer effective, a heart transplant may be necessary.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Keep Up a Healthy Beat

The best way to fend off heart failure is to keep your heart healthy. That means protecting it from damage. A healthy lifestyle will help you prevent the main causes of heart failure, including heart disease and high blood pressure. And the sooner you start, the better. Here are tips to try:

  • Focus on healthy foods. Build your meals around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. Include lean meat, poultry, fish, and fat-free or low-fat milk products.

  • Lose weight, if needed. Excess body fat stresses the heart.

  • Be more active. Ideally, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. But even 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity has heart benefits.

  • Stop smoking, if you smoke. Quitting can significantly cut your risk for heart disease.

  • Take control of health conditions. Work with your health care provider to manage other risk factors, such as high cholesterol and diabetes.

Concerned about heart failure? This video explains more about the condition.

Online Resources

American Heart Association - Heart Failure

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute - What Is Heart Failure

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