What is Heart Failure ?
Why get checked ?
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 Heart Failure in the world, more than half of which were classed as severe1
1 in 5
Adults over 40 years of age will have Heart Failure in their lifetime2
Projected increase by 2023 of the number of people diagnosed with Heart Failure3
What do I need to pay attention to?
Main risk factors are:4,5
High Blood PressureYour heart works harder than it has to if your blood pressure is high, and it can damage your blood vessels.
DiabetesHaving diabetes means your blood sugar is high. High blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels.
ObesityPeople 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 DiseaseNarrowed arteries may limit your heart’s supply of oxygen-rich blood, resulting in weakened heart muscle.
Certain medicationsSome medications may lead to heart failure or heart problems. Discuss with your doctor whether you need to make any changes in your medications.
Alcohol/TobaccoDrinking too much alcohol and using tobacco can weaken heart muscle and lead to heart failure.
Irregular heartbeatsThese 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.Don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor about how to measure your heart rate, how often, and how to interpret your results.
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.
How is heart failure diagnosed?
(what you may report)
(what you may report)
(what the doctor identifies)
(what the doctor identifies)
Dyspnea (breathlessness) Fatigue Persistent coughing or wheezing
Tachypnea (rapid breathing) Pulmonary rales Pleural effusion
Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen Weight gain or weight loss
Edema or weight gain Hepatomegaly Raised jugular venous pressure
Fatigue Decreased excercise tolerance
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
What should I do if I think my heart failure is getting worse and I have increasing symptoms?
Please see the warning signs below10If, 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.
Did you know?
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.
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Last modified date: 7/4/2022