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Prevent heart failure through blood pressure monitoring

The term heart failure (or congestive heart failure) is slightly misleading, as it doesn't necessarily mean that the heart has "failed". Instead it is a term that is used to describe a heart that is not working adequately. It cannot meet the body's need for blood because it isn't pumping properly.

The main consequences of this are accumulation of fluid in the lungs or other tissues, as the blood becomes congested and cannot be pumped around the body fast enough. This accumulation of fluid may cause difficulty in breathing or swelling of the legs.

Heart failure is often the end stage of another form of heart disease, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the artery) or cardiomyopathy (disorder of the heart muscle). Anything that puts a strain on the heart – such as obesity, a severe lung infection or an infection of the heart lining or valves – can also lead to heart failure.

Is Heart Failure a common problem?

As our population ages heart failure is becoming more common however it still only affects 2% of the general population but is more common amongst the elderly. Improvements in treatment over the last decade now allow patients with this condition to lead active lives.

What are the symptoms of Heart Failure?

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, especially with activity
  • Shortness of breath when lying flat
  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Weight gain, over a short period of time i.e. days
  • Loss of appetite and abdominal swelling
  • Dizziness or near fainting episodes
  • Irritable cough, sometimes producing frothy sputum.

What can be done to prevent Heart Failure?

In order to prevent heart failure, you must aim to prevent the different forms of heart disease that lead to it. There are a number of ways in which you can help to do this:

  • Don't smoke
  • Maintain a healthy and varied diet, avoiding saturated fats and salt
  • If you drink, do so in moderation
  • Have your cholesterol level checked on a regular basis
  • Take part in regular exercise
  • Try to maintain your correct body weight
  • If you have a condition that can affect the heart such as hypertension (high blood pressure), ensure you follow your doctor's advice.