" Is heart failure a common disease? "
Heart failure is a real public health problem: it is important to be diagnosed by a doctor!
Cases of HF in the world, more than half of which were classed as severe1
1 in 5
Adults over 40 years of age will have HF in their lifetime2
Projected increase by 2023 of the number of people diagnosed with HF3
Main risk factors4,5
" What do I need to pay attention to? "
High Blood Pressure
Your heart works harder than it has to if your blood pressure is high, and it can damage your blood vessels.
Having diabetes means your blood sugar is high. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels.
People who are obese have a higher risk of developing heart failure since being overweight increases your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure.
Coronary Artery Disease
Narrowed arteries may limit your heart’s supply of oxygen-rich blood, resulting in weakened heart muscle.
Some medications may lead to heart failure or heart problems. Discuss with your doctor whether you need to make any changes in your medications.
Drinking too much alcohol and using tobacco can weaken heart muscle and lead to heart failure.
These abnormal rhythms, especially if they are very frequent and fast, can weaken the heart muscle and cause heart failure.
There are several physiological criteria that you can monitor such as:
How do I measure my heart rate at home?6
Most of the time, it is your doctor or another health care professional who will measure your heart rate, but you can also monitor your heart rate by yourself, by “taking your pulse” in your wrist or neck.
Rest at least 5 minutes
If you want to find your pulse in your wrist, hold your left or right palm facing upwards and with the other hand, place your index and middle fingers (not the thumb) on the inside of your wrist, just below the base of your thumb.If you want to find your pulse in your neck, place your index and middle fingers (not the thumb) to the side of your neck, just below your jawbone and beside your windpipe.3
Press your fingers: you should feel a throbbing, this is your pulse. If you can’t find it, try moving your two fingers around a bit and pressing a little harder.
Using a clock, or counting in your head, count the number of beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two to get your heart rate.
Don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor about how to measure your heart rate, how often, and how to interpret your results.
How is heart failure diagnosed?
What you may report
- Dyspnea (breathlessness)
- Persistent coughing or wheezing
- Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Decreased excercise tolerance
What your doctor identifies?
- Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
- Pulmonary rales
- Pleural effusion
- Edema or weight gain
- Raised jugular venous pressure
- Low blood pressure
- Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
Identifying risk factors and comorbidities is also very important (see more details in What do I need to pay attention to?)
There are a number of different tests to perform to confirm the diagnosis of heart failure, such as chest X-rays, ECG (electrocardiogram), and laboratory tests, such as brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) levels.9
Signs that should alert you
" What should I do if I think my heart failure is getting worse and I have increasing symptoms? "
If, for example, you feel that your breathing is getting gradually worse or you notice progressive weight gain, then you should contact your doctor or nurse and ask for an appointment as soon as possible.
Call for immediate help if you experience:
Persistent chest pain that is not relieved by nitroglycerin
Severe and persistent shortness of breath
Inform your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you experience:
Increasing shortness of breath and tolerating less and less activity
Consistently awakening short of breath
Needing more pillows to sleep comfortably
Rapid heart rate or worsening palpitations
Discuss with your doctor or nurse if you experience:
Rapid weight gain of more than 2 kg (3 lbs) in 3 days
Progressive swelling or pain in the abdomen
Increasing swelling of the legs or ankles
Loss of appetite/nausea
Watson RDS, Gibbs CR, Lip GYH. Clinical features and complications. BMJ. 2000;320(7229):236‑9.