(NC) With heart failure on the rise, it’s important not to confuse it with other heart conditions.
“Heart failure is not the same as a heart attack,” explains Dr. Gavin Arthur of the Heart & Stroke Foundation. “And it is vital to know the difference.”
Heart failure is an incurable condition that happens when the heart itself is damaged or scarred. Unlike a heart attack, heart failure is not a sudden medical emergency. Instead, over time heart failure causes the heart to become progressively weaker. It can no longer pump adequate blood around the body. The signs are not sudden and can be subtle. There is no cure yet, and without medication and careful attention to diet and lifestyle the prognosis is very poor.
Tracy Bawtinheimer, a 51-year-old executive, knows from experience how easy it is to ignore the signs. After months of dizziness, extreme shortness of breath and unexplained weight gain that she attributed to stress and travel, she finally went to the emergency department. She was diagnosed with a heart rhythm disorder that was damaging her heart. Bawtinheimer now lives with heart failure, daily medication, and an acceptance that she can’t always be as active as she once was.
“Pay attention to changes in your health and listen to your intuition,” she says. “It’s always better to consult a physician than assuming you understand the cause of unexplained changes.”
“Recognizing heart failure early is the key to slowing down the progression so you have the best chance of staying out of the hospital and living longer,” says Arthur.
The warning signs
The warning signs include shortness of breath, especially when lying flat; sudden weight gain; bloating; a cough or cold symptoms that last more than a week; extreme fatigue; loss of appetite; increased urination at night and swelling in the ankles, feet or abdomen.
“If you see any of these signs, talk to your doctor,” notes Arthur.
Find more information online at heart and stroke