Heart failure happens when the heart becomes too stiff or weak, no longer able to keep up with the body's demands for pumping blood. The primary cause is heart disease, but the heart muscle can also stiffen because of poorly controlled high blood pressure or diabetes. More rarely, cardiomyopathies or myocarditis from a virus can cause the condition.
Some other risk factors include sleep apnea, some cancer medications and poor lifestyle behaviors.
"Maintaining a healthy diet, treating obesity, avoiding tobacco use and secondhand smoke, and avoiding alcohol can help prevent heart failure," said Dr. Gosia Wamil, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London.
Wamil's heart failure research includes studies aimed at understanding and breaking the connection between diabetes and heart disease, as well as using novel medical imaging methods to spot heart failure early.
Among the symptoms of heart failure are ankle swelling, breathlessness, chest pain, fatigue during exercise and a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
"There are other symptoms that people may not associate with heart failure. Those include a persistent cough, abdominal swelling, rapid weight gain, nausea and a lack of appetite," Wamil said in a Mayo Clinic news release. ''People who experience any of these symptoms should contact their health care provider."
Treatments may differ depending on what's causing a person's heart failure. It can't be cured, but the symptoms can often be controlled for years.
"After heart failure is diagnosed, patients will need to manage the condition for the rest of their lives, usually through care at specialized heart failure clinics," Wamil said.
Treatments include medication, surgically implanted devices and, in advanced cases, heart transplants. Researchers are also working to discover new therapies.
"Over the last few years, we have observed significant advances with the introduction of new classes of medications to manage heart failure," Wamil said. Those include drugs called SGLT2 inhibitors, initially developed to lower blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes.
The American Heart Association has more on heart failure.
SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Healthcare, news release, Aug. 10, 2022
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