Heart Failure is a very common medical condition among the elderly population in Nigeria, and the incidence is fast rising. There are about 100,000 new cases of cardiac failure each year in Nigeria.
What is Heart Failure
Heart failure is a medical condition that occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood that would be enough for the body’s activities. It is also known as cardiac failure.
The heart is like a pumping machine. The same way your pumping machine at home pumps water to all your bathrooms, kitchen, etc. That is the same way the heart pumps blood to the head, legs, liver, hands, brain, etc. The heart is the pumping mechanism of the body.
The moment that the heart can no longer pump enough blood for the proper functioning of the body organs, the organs would begin to suffer. When this happens, we say that the heart has failed, and call the condition heart failure. understand that the heart does not stop working. Just that it is not being efficient in its work.
Cardiac arrest on the other hand is the sudden cessation of all mechanical cardiac activity. In other words, the heart stops working entirely. Not pumping at all, whether enough or not enough.
When this happens, there is a fall in blood pressure to zero and no pulse. Death happens. The commonest cause of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation.
What causes heart failure
The common causes of heart failure in our environment are;
- Hypertension: this is the commonest cause of cardiac failure, in our environment, especially in middle-aged & elderly Nigerians.
- Rheumatic heart disease: this is the commonest cause of cardiac failure In young adults.
- Congenital heart diseases: are the common causes in infants.
- Coronary Artery Disease: This is another common cause.
- Degenerative valvular diseases: are now quite common in the elderly population.
Other causes include; Cardiomyopathies, Cardiotoxins like alcohol, Anaemia, Ischaemic heart disease, Endocarditis, etc
Symptoms Of Heart Failure (How to know)
Symptoms of cardiac failure include;
- You would find yourself gasping for air anytime you just walk a small distance or do a small thing, and you would need to stop & rest. This is called Breathlessness.
- You get tired very easily whenever you do anything.
- Anytime you try to lie down straight, you would be uncomfortable. You would be gasping for air. You can only lie down with a pillow under your back. This is called Orthopnoea.
- You find yourself waking up at night gasping for air to breathe. This is known as PND.
- Leg swelling: you would notice your leg swelling especially around your ankle. When you press it, it would enter inside. This is known as Oedema.
- Abdominal distension: you can also notice your abdomen swelling.
- Abdominal pain: you can also have pain.
- At some point, you start to cough or possibly vomit blood.
- Others are Confusion, Lightheadedness, Memory loss, Delirium, Easy satiety (eat small & get filled).
Treatment of Heart Failure
Anyone who has any of the above-mentioned symptoms should visit the nearest hospital closest to them immediately & see a doctor.
There are different methods used in the management of cardiac failure, depending on the extent of the failure. They include;
- Drugs: a number of drugs are used to manage cardiac failure. Your doctor would select the best combination of drugs for you. Please, never take another person’s prescription. It could harm you.
- Device Therapy: a device can also be put in to help the failing heart, such as Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICDs), Artificial heart Cardiac pacemakers, Ventricular assist devices, etc.
- Surgical Therapy: in cases of Congenital Cardiac defects, to close the defects. Valve replacement, repair.
Other techniques are:
Exercise: Bed rest is no longer recommended, and exercise now appears to be promising as a treatment in heart failure.
Daily weighing is important as well as nursing in the most comfortable position.
Prognosis: Mortality from heart failure is high. When treatment is started early, and the cause is appropriately addressed, the prognosis is very good.
Prevention of Heart Failure
This involves the prevention of the risk factors that can cause you to develop heart failure. These include:
- Effective education about the condition.
- Maintenance of nutritional status.
- Smoking cessation.
- Avoidance of excessive salt or alcohol intake.
- Regular moderate exercise.
- Vaccinations for influenza and pneumococcus.
- Treatment of the underlying cause (e.g. coronary artery disease (CAD), valvular disease, hypertension) is important to prevent progression.
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