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heart failure

Heart Failure - Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis

With rising standards of living and ever increasing luxuries being embedded in our lives, problems too are rising though at a gradual pace. The problems so rising are now being known as the silent invaders which do not show their effects in initial stages but can even suck the lives out of the bodies drop by drop if not uprooted at the right time.

One of the top grossing problems popping up these days is the heart failure. Now don’t get confused with heart failure to be stoppage in functioning of heart. It basically is a condition in which the heart cannot pump efficiently enough to meet the body’s need for blood. Contrary to its name, heart failure does not mean the heart has failed completely. Heart does not pump enough blood. Blood backs up in veins and body does not get enough blood, food, and oxygen.

Symptoms

As it has been told, such problems are silent invaders which do not show any signs at time of entering the body. But still, some symptoms could be identified to deal with the problem before it is too late. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down or exercising
  • Tired, rundown feeling
  • Swelling or wheezing especially when lying down or exercising
  • Swelling in feet, ankles and legs
  • Weight gain
  • Needing two or more pillows at night or sleeping while sitting.

These are some of the many symptoms which you might face before or while having a heart failure. If you detect any of those, it is the warning sign and you should see the doctor as soon as possible.

Causes

Heart failure is more common as we age, but anyone can develop heart failure. As it is said that a thing breaks not just with one hit, but needs to have many hits simultaneously. Just like that, there could be many causes of such devious problem.

The most common cause is when the heart does not get the blood supply and its muscles are damaged. This can happen when there has been a heart attack or history of uncontrolled high blood pressure. Other causes are:

  • Virus infection of heart
  • When rhythm is not normal
  • Valves of the heart are damaged
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Obesity
  • Recreational drugs
  • After some chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment
  • In multi-organ involvement during a severe infection

Diagnose

So, after detecting the symptoms, rush to the doctor. After looking to your symptoms in depth, the doctor will examine you and get certain tests done to confirm the diagnosis. These tests are simple and not very costly. The procedure normally followed for diagnosis are:

A) A detailed physical examination by the doctor, which includes examination of heart, lungs, neck veins, swelling feet, body weight, blood pressure, and most important, heart rate of the patient.

B) A simple Chest X ray will tell about the size of the heart shadow and presence of any fluid in lungs.

C) Echocardiogram (ECHO Test) – It is a simple test, just like ultrasound of the heart but with colour Doppler. This is one of the most important tests and should only be done by the doctors (cardiologists) who are qualified to do it. This test can be done at any time of the day, and the patient need not do fasting.

The ECHO test gives information about the thickness of heart muscles, pumping capacity (ejection fraction) of heart, presence of any muscle injury due to an earlier heart attack and abnormality in valve function of heart.

D) ECG – This simple, but one of the most informative test, tells about the rate, regularity, and nature of the heartbeat, and even shows if there are any changes due to an earlier heart attack (which can be silent also).

E) Biomarkers and other blood tests – A specific blood test (Pro BNP, NT Pro BNP) can be done to diagnose and monitor heart failure in the patients. Other routine blood tests like CBC, Liver and Kidney functions are important for the treatment purposes.

Closing Comments

Might it be any minor or a major heart disease, Dr Anurag Sharma holds specialty in catering to every heart problem. With years of successful experience and skilled expertise, Dr Anurag has proven to be one of the best and most loved cardiologist in North India. Dr Anurag Sharma is an Interventional Cardiologist and is a director at OJAS Super Speciality Hospital, Sector 26, Panchkula. He is a heart failure specialist and can help you with any heart related queries.