As we advance in age, our body tends to become “worn out”. One particular organ that can become “worn out” overtime is the heart. When this happens, it can lead to what most people refer when they say “heart failure”. Not many realize, however, that anyone can develop heart failure.
When you have a hear failure, your heart is unable to work efficiently. This means that it would not be able to pump enough blood. In most cases, this would lead to congested lungs, fluid and water buildup around the ankles and the legs, and rapid or irregular heartbeats,
Conditions That Lead to Heart Failure
Heart failure does not just happen overnight. In most cases, the patient tends to have a pre-existing heart condition that, later, leads to a heart failure. Some of the most common conditions that can lead to heart failure would include:
- coronary artery disease
- high blood pressure
- heart valve disease
- lung conditions
- alcohol/ drug abuse
Such conditions as severe anemia, hyperthyroidism, and arrhythmia can also be sign that you have heart failure.
Now, an increased propensity for heart failure is not really very rare. In fact, about 6 million Americans live with heart failure with one in every 5 Americans over the age of 40 developing it over their lifetime.
Heart Failure is also something that can happen in children and adolescents. In this case, the cause is typically either over circulation failure or pump failure. Both typically present themselves in the form of breathing trouble, poor feeding, poor growth, sweating, or low blood pressure. A chest x-ray is often done in order to determine whether the heart is enlarged or not. Additional tests such as EKG and echocardiogram may also be done in order to determine the actual condition of the heart.
Critical Symptoms of Heart Failure
Certain symptoms of a heart failure warrant a call of the doctor. These symptoms would include:
- Unexplained increase in wright over a short period of time.
- More than the usual swelling in the ankles, feet and legs
- Extreme fatigue
- Lung infection
- Irregular and/ or fast heartbeat
- Sudden and severe headache
Why do you need to be aware of the symptoms? Well, heart failure is considered to be one of the most costly conditions anyone can have. About 80% of overall national costs are due to hospitalization. The time you have to spend in the hospital would also mean lost wages and work time.
Treating and Dealing with Heart Failure
Some of the most common methods of treatment for this medical condition would include:
- administration of ACE inhibitors
- Use of beta-blockers
- Use of digoxin and blood vessel dilators
There are some medical service providers that also do cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation is a combination of proper exercise regimen as well as a healthy lifestyle. The program also typically includes emotional support in the form of regular meetings with people who have similar conditions.
Of course, it is also a good idea to make sure that you have an AED on hand, or at least have the people around you undergo CPR certification.
For many people, heart pulse is nothing more than the regular “thumping of the heart”. At best, it just signifies that you are still alive. Not many realize that your pulse rate actually says a lot about your current state of health.
What Your Pulse Means?
Pulse is the term used to define the number of times your heart beats in a minute. It generally differs from one person to another, and could change over time. These changes play a significant role in determining your current state of health.
Defining the Normal Heart Rate
In most cases, the heart rate being measured when you undergo a physical checkup is what is known as the resting heart rate. This is when your heart pumps the lowest amount of blood, typically because you are sitting down or not doing anything. In most cases, a pulse can be felt on the wrists, on the inside of your elbow, the side of your neck, and the top of your foot. You, then, count the number of pulses over a 60-minute period. Generally, your resting heart rate does not change much wit moderate physical activities.
Now, you have to keep in mind that, the lower your blood pressure is, the better BUT there are certain limits. If you are already feeling dizzy, nauseous, dehydrated, and with clammy, pale skin as well as blurred vision, you might already be suffering from hypotension. Both hypertension and hypotension can lead to a heart attack since, in both cases, not enough oxygen is reaching the heart and the brain.
Factors That Affect Pulse Rate
There are a number of factors that can affect your pulse rate. Some of these would include the following:
- Air temperature
- Body position
- Body size
That being the case, you have to keep in mind that a single occurrence of an elevated or very low blood pressure is not enough to diagnose someone as having hypertension or hypotension. This is because, the condition could have been brought about by the factors indicated above.
Your Blood Pressure and Your Heart Rate
While most people think that an increased heart rate or pulse results to a higher blood pressure, that is not the case. You have to remember that your blood vessels have the ability to dilate in order to allow more blood to flow. This means that the pressure needed in order to get your blood circulating remains the same. This is typically what happens when you are exercising – your heart rate doubles, but there is very minimal increase in your blood pressure.
So, When Should I Call A Doctor?
Most medical professionals recommend calling your doctor if you have unexplained and recurring fast pulse rate. It is also a good idea to make sure that you regularly monitor your pulse rate along with your blood pressure. This is particularly important if you are on beta blockers as your doctor can adjust the dosage of your medication or even change it based on your pulse rate. At the same time, it is also recommended that you keep an AED unit in your place just in case you or someone suffers from heart attack.
For most people, high blood pressure is not something that you should lose sleep over. What most do not understand is that, once a certain point is reached, hypertension can lead to heart attack. Here are some more myths and incorrect beliefs that you might have to know about:
It’s in the genes so you can’t do anything about it.
While the predisposition or tendency to develop hypertension could run in the family, it does not necessarily mean that you would have it and that you would not be able to do anything to keep yourself from suffering from it. Making the right lifestyle choices can help you stay away from hypertension.
No table salt, no hypertension
Although salt generally increases the risk for hypertension, leaving it out of your meal does not automatically you are safe from hypertension. You have to keep in mind that it’s the sodium content that matters, and sodium can be found not just in your table salt but also in a lot of processed food. That said, you need to make sure that you read labels since, in most cases, about 75% of processed food have sodium as their ingredient. Using kosher salt also does not change things as kosher salt is made of 40 percent sodium.
As long as I feel fine, I shouldn’t worry about hypertension
Most people think that people with hypertension are typically sweaty and are constantly out of breath. In truth, however, people can be hypertensive without showing any physical symptom. This is the reason why hypertension is typically referred to as the “Silent Killer”. That said, the best way to ensure that you are not hypertensive is to get your blood pressure on a regular basis.
I drink lots of red wine so I don’t think I’m hypertensive
Although studies have shown that red wine, you have to keep in mind that, just like anything else, it should be taken in moderation. This is because, wine as well as other alcoholic beverages can significantly increase your blood pressure. This, in turn, can lead to a heart attack especially if you are not at your best health.
I no longer need meds since I have been able to moderate my blood pressure these past few months
Hypertension is typically a lifelong condition. It is not something that can be cured after a certain period of time. The best that you can hope for is regular maintenance in order to keep your hypertension at bay. That being the case, your best bet is to make sure that you have a trusted health care partner who can advise you on how to take care of yourself. In line with this, you should also consider having an AED unit home. You have to keep in mind that hypertension, in some cases, can lead to a heart attack. When that happens, you need to make sure that the people around you would know what to do. Having an AED at home, therefore, is what you need.
When it comes to heart ailment and failure, most people mistake cardiac arrest for heart attack. Although both usually have the same ending, the two actually come about for two different reasons.
Understanding Heart Attack
The organs in your body need oxygen in order to function. Your heart is no exception to this. If oxygen-laden blood is unable to flow through your heart, you would most likely suffer from a heart attack. Medically speaking, heart attack also goes by the name of myocardial infarction. Now, there are many ways blood supply to the heart can get cut off. One of the most common, however, is the build up of plaque along the walls of the blood vessels. Known as arteriosclerosis, this typically happens when you have a high level of bad cholesterol.
Heart attack, however, does not have to mean death sentence for anyone. In fact, over the last few years, the survival rate for victims of heart attack is on the rise. This does not, however, mean that you would be okay after a heart attack. Generally, suffering from one would mean scars; and, depending on your general health, your heart could become weak and more susceptible to further heart attack.
Because of its nature, the typical first aid for heart attacks would involve CPR. Since this condition does not involve any interference in the electrical activity of the heart, the use of an AED might not be effective.
Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest
As opposed to heart attack, cardiac arrest deals more with the electrical activity of the heart. In order to understand Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), you first have to understand how your heart’s electrical activity works. The heart has a special clump of cells known as the myocardial contractile cells are responsible for the rhythm of the heart – the usual lub-dub that we know of. Certain factors such as the intense physical activity, low potassium levels in the blood, and certain inherited disorders can give rise to SCA. Individuals who have suffered before from heart attack are also at a higher risk for SCA. Keep in mind though that even those who appear to be healthy can suffer from SCA. In an SCA, a disruption of the normal pattern of the heart beat takes place.
While the survival rate of a heart attack has been on the rise, the same cannot be said for SCA. A few minutes of delay in medical attention could spell the difference between life and death for a person.
What to Do
Because the two have different causes, the way to deal with them would also differ. Simply put, a heart attack would respond better to a CPR, or a continuous chest compression until, at least, the medical professionals are able to take over the patient.
On the other hand, a Sudden Cardiac Arrest situation needs something that would allow to heart to jump back to its normal rhythm. That being the case, chest compression would not have much of an impact; instead, an AED would be the best option.
As improbable as it sounds, women have different ways of dealing with heart attack than men. In most cases, women might have a more silent symptom or sign of a heart attack. This, therefore, means that women have to be more aware of any changes in their body as his can already be a sign of a higher propensity for an attack.
Chest Pain or Discomfort
While both men and women might feel a crushing sensation in the chest area that radiates to the extremities, women typically feel experience mostly a fullness in the chest area, not just in the right side. The experience is typically likened to having a vise tightened around the chest area.
Radiating Pain in Extremities
Women are more likely to experience radiating pain the arms, back, neck, and jaw than men. The pain can either be gradual or sudden, with some occasions leaving the patient feeling a waxing and waning of the discomfort. Because of the nature of the discomfort, many women do not realize that they are already suffering some form of heart attack.
It is easy to mistakenly think of a stomach pain as a simple case of food not agreeing with your stomach. In truth, what you see as a stomach pain could already be a form of heartburn, a stomach flu, or a stomach ulcer – all of which could already be signals that a heart attack is about to occur. In some cases, women would feel as if there is an intense pressure being applied around the abdominal area. When that happens, make sure you get hold of a medical professional immediately.
Women who are about to have a heart attack will typically experience cold sweat more than the usual, and even when there are no stressful situations involved. You have to keep in mind that the sweat that you would experience would be different from the usual one that you get after an exercise or if the room is hot. In some cases, the sweating might be accompanied by fatigue and the general feeling of tiredness even when one is already at rest.
Now, as with men, certain factors can increase the risk of a heart attack. Some of these factors would include smoking heavily, indulging in extremely stressful situations particularly in work, and a sedentary lifestyle. By changing or taking control of these factors, you are able to lessen the risk for a heart attack. You have to remember that, in women, the no. 1 cause of death is heart attack.
Keep in Mind:
If you or someone you know is living with a heart condition or has a high risk for a heart attack, the best thing to do is to make sure that you have an AED unit in place. It also helps if you, or someone who lives with you, has been trained to provide emergency CPR when the situation calls for it. In the same line, however, you have to keep in mind that these symptoms may or may not appear at all in some patients.
Everyone has heard of blood pressure – the force of the blood flowing through your blood vessels. While there are cases of low blood pressure, or hypotension, high blood pressure, or hypertension, has been a greater bane to man since time immemorial. In fact, in the US alone, about 80 million suffer from it. Of course, the best way to know if you are one of those statistics is to have your blood pressure taken.
Blood Pressure Category
Medically speaking, there are five (5) categories of blood pressure:
- Hypertension Stage 1
- Hypertension Stage 2
- Hypertensive Crisis
In the normal stage, blood pressure is no more than 120/80. At the pre-hypertension stage, the reading is typically no more than 139/89 but not lower than 120/80. When the blood pressure reaches 140/90 to 159/99, this is already considered as Hypertension Stage 1. Anything higher than that is what is medically considered as Hypertension Stage 2. Now, when the blood pressure reading already exceeds 180/110, that is already considered as a hypertensive crisis and would require an immediate visit to the ER.
You might have noticed that your blood pressure is composed of two sets of numbers. These numbers are called the systole and the diastole. Systole is the term used to denote the upper number. It refers to the pressure that your blood makes against the artery wall when your heart is beating. On the other hand, Diastole, the lower number, refers to the pressure that your blood makes against the artery wall when it is on rest. Generally, medical professionals pay more attention to the systole particularly for those who are 50 years of age or older. This is because the systole typically increases as one ages. This comes about due to the build up of plaque around the walls of the blood vessels as well as the stiffening of the latter.
Resistant and Pulmonary Hypertension
In some cases, even if you have made certain lifestyle changes, your blood pressure does not seem to move down. This is typically what is known as a Resistant Hypertension. This can be quite complicated to deal with and is usually a symptom of an even more serious medical condition. In most cases, people who have resistant hypertension also have the following:
- Abnormal level in the hormones that control the blood pressure
- The presence of renal artery stenosis
- Presence of obstructive sleep apnea
On the other hand, there are some people who suffer from Pulmonary Hypertension. As the name implies, this happens in the heart-to-lung system delivery where the oxygenated blood is processed. It is typically lower than a systemic blood pressure. Some of the common signs that you might have pulmonary hypertension would include:
- Shortness of breath even during routine activities
- Chest Pain
- Low Appetite
- Racing heartbeat
- Swelling of the ankles and legs
Now, you have to keep in mind that hypertension, particularly Pulmonary Hypertension, can start and progress with very little signs and symptoms. That being said, and coupled with the fact that hypertension can lead to heart attack, having an AED unit at home can prove to be more than valuable.
One of the most common signs that you are about to have a massive heart attack. As common as it is, however, not many people understand what it is all about. For one, angina is typically used to describe a heart condition that involves extreme chest pain spreading to the extremities. This typically happens when there is insufficient supply of oxygen to the heart. Now, the latter, in turn, is caused by the narrowing of the arteries due to a build up of plaque.
What are the Different Types of Angina?
One type of Angina is known as the Prinzmetal angina. It involves temporary spasm of the coronary artery which leads to a decrease in the supply of blood flow to a certain area of the heart. Another type of angina is what is known as the Microvascular Angina. In this type of Angina, it is the smaller arteries that are affected instead of the bigger ones; thus, the name. A variant of the microvascular angina is known as the Syndrome X cardiac disease. In this type, the decrease in the supply of blood is not caused by vasospasm seen in Prinzmetal angina.
Causes of Angina
Aside from the narrowing of the blood vessels, another cause of angina is hypertension. The continuous pressure brought about by the pumping can prove to be too much for your heart. Conditions such as anemia and poisoning can also lead to angina in the same way as hyperthyroidism and stress.
Signs and Symptoms of Angina
The most common sign of angina is a squeezing pain in the chest that radiates to the arms, neck and jaw. It is oftentimes accompanied by shortness of breath and sweating. Generally, strenuous activities can make the angina worse. In some cases, a person suffering from angina might complain of indigestion and heartburn combined with shortness of breath, weakness, and nausea.
Now, you have to keep in mind that an angina could either be stable or unstable. In the case of the former, the angina lasts for a few seconds only, and typically feels like indigestion. On the other hand, an unstable angina can be more complicated. For one, it can come without a warning. This is aside from the fact that it cannot be treated with resting or taking nitroglycerin. In most cases, however, it can occur while one is sleeping and would typically last longer than a stable angina. What makes it even more serious is the fact that it can lead to a heart attack. That being the case, it is best to keep an AED handy.
There are a number of ways by which an unstable angina can be dealt with. This would include the use of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention or Coronary Artery Bypass Graft. In the case of the former, cardiac catheterization would be done. The catheter typically comes with an inflatable balloon at the tip in order to open up the fatty plaque deposit along the coronary walls. On the other hand, Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery makes use of a blood vessel in order to re-route the blood and bypass the area where there is a blockage.
Also known as a Ischemic Heart Disease, the Coronary Heart Disease is considered to be one of the most common cardiovascular conditions. It is a generic term that covers a whole number of heart conditions including stable angina, unstable angina, myocardial infaction, and sudden cardiac arrest. This heart ailment typically comes about as a result of the narrowing of the blood vessels, which in turn is a result of the buildup of plaque along the walls of the said blood vessels. While many people are aware that the hardened plaque can narrow the path where the blood flows, very few are aware that the same can cause the blood vessels to rupture. When this happens, a blood clot occurs along the surface, completely blocking off the blood from reaching the heart. This, then, leads to a massive heart attack.
Who is At Risk?
As with most heart ailments, those who have a high risk for developing Coronary Heart Diseases would include individuals that have high levels of LDL cholesterol as well as high blood pressure. The risk for Coronary Heart Disease increases even more for individuals who are regular smokers as well as those who are overweight or have diabetes. The elderly as well as those who do not lead an active lifestyle and do not watch what they eat are also at risk for developing Coronary Heart Disease.
Of late, researches have also shown that such factors as the presence of a thyroid problem, constant stress, high levels of C-reactive protein, and sleep apnea may also increase the likelihood of Coronary Heart Disease.
Dealing with CHD
Most CHD treatment options focus on lowering the formation of blood clots, relieving the symptoms, and reversing the buildup of plaque. That said, some of the common treatment modalities would include:
- Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Change
Watching what you eat may sound cliche but by making sure that you include such food items as fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids as well as fruits and legumes, you are actually lowering your risk for developing and suffering from a number of coronary heart diseases. While you’re at it, consider also cutting back on the number of sticks you smoke in the day as well as monitoring your Body Mass Index.
- Managing Stress
An emotionally charged event is typically one of the common reasons for a heart attack. That being the case, if you are feeling the pressure of the daily grind of your work or of your life, consider enrolling in a stress management program. It also helps to do some meditation and relaxation activities. Studies have also shown that talking it out with family and friends can help lower the stress that you are feeling.
- Physical Activities
Moderately intense aerobic exercises have been shown to be quite effective when dealing with hypertension and excess weight. If a regular exercise regimen at the gym sounds challenging for you, you can start with small activities like brisk walking. You need to make sure, however, that you talk first to your doctor before engaging in anything.
It is also a good idea to have an AED on hand should the situation become worst. Aside from this, knowing how to administer CPR can also help ensure that CHD does not result to death.
A sudden halt in the heart’s normal beating pattern typically results to what is known as Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Although typically used interchangeably with heart attack, the two conditions are not the same, with SCA typically comes as a result of a problem in the electrical impulses related to the heart beat. Heart attack, on the other hand, typically comes as a result of a blockage in the blood vessels. If not treated immediately, it can ultimately lead to death. One of the most common causes of SCA is what is known as the Long QT Syndrome, or LQTS.
What is a Long QT Syndrome?
The heart makes use of electrical impulses in order to moderate its beating pattern. This electrical cycle is measured in terms of what is known as a QT interval – the time between the start of the Q wave and the end of the T Wave. In the case of a Long QT Syndrome, the interval is longer than usual, typically indicating a delay between the depolarization and repolarization of the heart. This prolongation, though typical, is not always visible in all LQTS patients.
Those with LQTS typically suffer from bouts of bouts of seizures and arrhythmias, or an irregular heartbeat. This is aside from palpitations and dizziness prior to onset of other conditions. Keep in mind that this condition is typically hereditary. There are, however, cases where LQTS comes about as a result of certain medications such as diuretics, antihistamine, antibiotics, and antidepressants. Severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can cause dehydration and, ultimately, a reduced level of potassium, can also lead to a Long QT Syndrome.
There are currently seven different types of LQTS. Of these, however, the most common ones are LQTS 1, 2 and 3. In LQTS 1, emotional stress can already trigger arrhythmia. LQTS 2, on the other hand, typically comes as a result of shock or other extreme emotions. In LQTS 3, a slowed heart rate, such as when you are asleep, can bring about an irregular heartbeat pattern.
Dealing with LQTS
According to researches and studies, those who have undiagnosed and untreated hereditary LQTS can die within 10 years. That said, most medical professionals agree that the best way to handle this is with beta blocker medication. It is also recommended to watch what you eat and ensure that you do not live a sedentary life. Aside from this, the following can also help:
- Adding white beans and baked potatoes with skin to your diet. Both are considered to be top sources of potassium
- Considering the use of pacemakers in order to keep the beating pattern within normal range
- Keeping away from strenuous activities
An immediate way to help LQTS patients who are having an SCA would be to administer AED, or Automated External Defibrillator. An AED is a portable device that can help jumpstart a heart’s beating pattern should it suddenly come to a stop. Depending on the model, an AED could come with voice prompts that can guide the user during emergency cases.
For most people, SCA can mean a death sentence. After all, SCA, or Sudden Cardiac Arrest, means something causes your heart to abruptly stop beating. This, consequently, means that blood to other major organs are abruptly put to a stop. If left untreated for a couple of minutes, it can lead to death. For those who survived the ordeal, however, the risk for a second attack is increased. Fortunately, there is a way to lower such risk.
While SCA can happen to anyone, certain groups of people tend to have a higher risk for the said condition. This would include those who:
- Have had a previous case of SCA
- Those have sedentary lives
- Those who have had heart problems
According to researches, those who have had SCA in the past but have had an ICD, or Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, in place, are at lesser risk for a repeat of the condition. The implant is typically placed under the skin near the chest area. What this device does is monitor heartbeat. In case there is an abnormality in the pattern, it sends out electrical impulses that shocks the heart muscle in order to get it back to its normal rhythm. Now, you have to keep in mind, however, that an ICD and a pacemaker are two different implants; however, some ICD models already come with a pacemaker. The main difference between the two is the fact that ICDs are triggered only when there is a cessation in the beating pattern while a pacemaker ensures that the beats are according to a certain rhythm.
Now, living a sedentary life can give rise to a number of medical conditions concerning one’s heart. This could include diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart diseases. That being the case, some of your options would include making sure that you follow your doctor’s advice as far as medications are concerned. These medications are typically aimed at addressing your particular condition. That said, you would probably have a medication for your hypertension, a medication to prevent blood clots, and a medication to reduce your heart’s workload. In the case of diabetes, your doctor would most likely prescribe what kind of food you can and cannot eat. In the same manner, you would also be provided with insulin shots in order to manage your blood sugar level. On the other hand, if you have CHD (Coronary Heart Disease), one of the options that would be presented to you would include percutaneous coronary intervention. This procedure is more commonly known as angioplasty and has been proven to lower the risk for an SCA if you are already suffering from CHD.
At the end of the day, the best way to ensure that you would not be going unconscious and needing a CPR would be to live a healthy lifestyle. This does not mean you have to eat bland food. In some cases, this would just mean taking everything in moderation. It also pays to exercise on a regular basis and ensure that you do not stress yourself out too much.