by Nalissa Wienke – Media Relations Specialist, Public Relations, Froedert Hospital
Approximately 5.7 million people in the United States are living with heart failure and 670,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. The prevalence of heart failure (HF) doubles with each decade of life. African Americans are 20 times more likely to suffer heart failure than Caucasians because of high blood pressure which has been linked to obesity. In fact, HF is listed on one in nine death certificates. Heart failure does not mean that the heart has failed, but that it fails to squeeze and relax normally. This weakened state may develop as result of heart attack, high blood pressures, advanced age, exposure to toxins such as chemotherapy or recreational drugs. The most common causes include coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. A blood pressure of greater than 160/90 doubles the risk of development of HF. Heart failure may occur gradually or suddenly and should be taken seriously. Symptoms include shortness of breath during daily activity, trouble breathing while laying down, weight gain with swelling in the legs, ankles or lower back, angina(chest pain), loss of appetite and overall exhaustion or weakness. While there is no cure for heart failure, early diagnoses and treatment can help improve and lengthen the lives of those who suffer from it. It is essential for persons living with HF to be active participants in their treatment plan. The plan may include medications, salt (sodium) reduction, increase in physical activity, a stop smoking plan, reduction in alcohol intake, daily weight monitoring, keeping follow up appointments and recognizing signs of symptom worsening. With advanced HF, treatment options may include cardiac devices or surgery. Log onto the American Heart Association site for information to support heart healhty lifestyles options.