Understanding Heart Failure as Chronic Medical Condition

Heart failure is an extremely serious problem in the United States and is one of the leading causes of hospital readmission. First, there are a high number of patients who are suffering and dying from this disease. Second, the financial burden to treat heart disease patients is becoming an alarming public health issue. Heart failure is a very common problem. About 5.7 million Americans are living with it today and most of them are over 65 years of age. Heart failure takes years to develop and it’s also called congestive heart failure. This is when fluid builds up in various parts of the body. So if you don’t yet have it but are at risk for it, you should make lifestyle changes now to prevent it. Heart failure symptoms usually develop over time as your heart becomes weaker and less able to pump the blood that your body needs. Heart failure usually results in an enlarged heart in the left ventricle.

Because excessive readmissions rates due to heart failure and heart-related issues, the healthcare community has come to see that this tends to indicate suboptimal care. To solve this government and commercial payers are focusing on 30-day readmission rates as a new quality measure for hospitals. This Heart Failure Readmission Reduction Processes is the intent behind the measures for the hospitals to provide better care by following evidence-based practice guidelines, which in turn, will reduce heart failure readmission rates. Some proposed methods include:

  • ~Patient education at discharge
  • ~Appropriate medications prescribed
  • ~Medication reconciliation
  • ~Timely access to care after discharge
  • ~Hand-off communications between primary care providers and acute care facilities
  • ~Rapid distribution of hospital documentation to primary care providers
  • ~Home health interventions
  • ~Follow-up phone calls

Risk Factors

If you are wondering what are some risk factors that could lead to heart failure, some are listed below:

 

  • ~ Risk factors for heart failure include high blood pressure, prior heart attack, obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, vitamin deficiencies, sleep apnea, heavy metal toxicity, eating an unhealthy diet (including animal fat and salt), and being sedentary.

 

  • ~ The cause of heart failure is a weakened or thickened cardiac muscle. When risk factors for heart failure are present, there usually is inflammatory stress, which further damages the cardiac muscle depleting cells of energy and antioxidants.

 

  • ~ There are four stages of heart failure, used to classify the severity of symptoms.

 

  • ~ Heart failure treatment includes lifestyle and diet changes, taking medications, and sometimes implanting devices. Heart transplant may be needed in some cases.

 

  • ~ Medications can help reduce the symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF) and improve heart muscle function. Commonly prescribed medications for heart failure include beta-blockers, diuretics (water pills), ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors, and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers).

 

  • ~ The prognosis for heart failure is highly variable. If lifestyle changes are not made, or medications are not taken, or the underlying causes are not correctable, heart failure can become a progressive and ultimately fatal condition.

Prevention

Heart failure can be prevented and reversed by making healthier choices such as addressing stress, being active, eating well, getting enough nutrients, treating sleep apnea, and taking medications as prescribed.

Symptoms

  • ~ Shortness of breath, especially when lying down
  • ~ Tired, run-down feeling
  • ~ Coughing or wheezing, especially when you exercise or lie down
  • ~ Swelling of feet, ankles, and legs
  • ~ Weight gain from fluid buildup
  • ~ Confusion or can’t think clearly

Types of Heart Failure

Medically speaking, there are two types of heart failure

Systolic heart failure

This is left-sided heart failure) When the heart loses strength on the left side which is the left ventricle and cannot pump the blood into circulation, it is called systolic heart failure or left-sided heart failure. When this occurs, the heart becomes dilated and weak.

Diastolic heart failure: This is right-sided heart failure It is characterized by the heart becoming thicker and stiffer. When this happens, the left ventricle cannot fill with sufficient blood, and not enough blood is pumped into circulation, even if the pumping action is still strong.