One of the most common lifestyle diseases today, hypertension affects every third person in the country.
What makes the situation worse is that about 90% of those suffering from this disease are not aware of it. It is estimated that about one-third of the Indian population will suffer from this disease by 2020. Currently, about 20% to 40% people in urban areas and 12% to 17% in rural areas live with hypertension. Research indicates that uncontrolled hypertension is associated with an increased risk of heart failure. A person is said to have high blood pressure if his reading is above 140/90 mm and uncontrolled hypertension when his/her blood pressure levels cannot be controlled through conventional treatment methods.
Speaking about this, Dr Nityanand Tripathi, HOD & Associate Director – Cardiac Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh said, “Heart failure is a condition in which the heart does not pump enough blood to meet the requirement of the body’s tissues. Uncontrolled hypertension can trigger heart failure slowly over time. The reason for this is that the heart muscles thicken to make up for increased blood pressure. The force of the heart muscle contractions weaken over time, and the muscles have difficulty relaxing. This prevents normal flow of blood to the heart. Although heart failure does not cause the heart to stop functioning, it is definitely a serious medical condition. Heart failure cannot be cured, but there are several treatment options that your treating cardiologist may advise for you.”
The symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath (dyspnea) after exertion, fatigue and weakness, edema, rapid or irregular heartbeat, reduced ability to exercise, persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm, increased need to urinate at night, sudden weight gain, lack of appetite and nausea, and decreased alertness. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help.
Adding further, Dr Tripathi, said, “Heart failure generally begins with the left side, specifically the left ventricle – the heart’s main pumping chamber. ‘Ejection fraction’ is a term used in connection with heart failure. It refers to the amount of blood pushed out of the left ventricle every time the heart beats. It’s usually expressed as a percentage.”
“A normal ejection fraction is around 50% to 65%, as there is always some blood left in the heart after each heartbeat. Some people with heart failure have a normal ejection fraction, so this criterion is used alongside other tests to help diagnose heart failure. Certain blood pressure medicines can help treat heart failure. Some examples include diuretics which help in reducing fluid buildup. ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers can also help.”
In certain cases, surgery may be required depending on the underlying cause of heart failure. Some of the treatment options include coronary bypass surgery, heart valve repair or replacement, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, cardiac resynchronization therapy, heart pumps, and heart transplants. Making these lifestyle changes can help relieve the symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening.
Cut smoking: Smoking damages the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and makes your heart beat faster. Consider quitting the habit right away.
Exercise and reduce weight: Monitor your weight to avoid fluid retention. Indulge in at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
Eat a healthy diet: Consume fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins. Restrict the salt in your diet. Limit fats and cholesterol. A diet high in fat and cholesterol can contribute to heart failure.
Reduce stress: Anxiety can make the heart beat faster. A person tends to breathe more heavily in such cases and the blood pressure often goes up. This can make heart failure worse. Destress with techniques such as yoga and meditation.