Heart Failure -- Know the Top 10 Signs
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September 16, 2011, last updated July 27, 2013
By Alison Turner, Contributing Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other
members of our Editorial Board]







The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that
every 60 seconds an American dies from a heart problem.   The
Heart Failure Society of America reports that nearly 5 million
Americans of all ages are currently affected by heart failure,
making it  “responsible for more hospitalizations than all forms
of cancer combined.”   Furthermore, there will be over 400,00
new cases of heart failure diagnosed in the following year
alone, which is all the more tragic because many serious
situations could have been prevented – if those afflicted had
only recognized the signs.

What are the signs of heart failure? Are the signs of heart
failure different from the signs of a heart attack?

What is Heart Failure?

The two words “Heart Failure” are intimidating, and should be
taken seriously – but they do not necessarily mean that your
heart has stopped or that it will stop any second.  

The heart is a pump. So, essentially "heart failure" means that
your pump no longer works --- it can't forcibly push enough
blood out into your body.  Heart failure occurs when something
mechanical is broken --perhaps the valves of your heart don't
close or open properly or perhaps too much of the engine of
your heart is broken because previous heart attacks have killed
too many cells of your heart.

A healthy heart ejects blood with great force into the rest of
your body. Doctors measure how strongly your heart pushes
out blood by find out your "ejection fraction". The higher the
ejection fraction, the stronger your heart's pump. Healthy
people have an ejection fraction of between 55% and 75%.
Some guides put the low range of healthy at 50%.  

Heart failure is marked by low ejection fractions, typically lower
than 40%.  For example, if you have an ejection fraction of
30%, you qualify for disability under the guidelines of the
Social Security Administration.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (with the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services) defines heart failure
as “a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to
meet the body’s needs” either because something prevents the
heart from filling with enough blood, or because it cannot
pump the blood to the body with enough force.   

Heart failure does not happen suddenly, but develops over time
as the pumping of the heart becomes increasingly feeble.

Indeed, The Heart Failure Society of America warns that many
Americans are unaware of having heart failure because some of
the most common symptoms are often mistaken for general
symptoms of age or fatigue.  

Below are the Top 10  symptoms that you may want to pay
attention to, in case you or a loved one is affected with heart
failure:






























1.        
Swollen Ankles (Edema).  Edema is a fancy word for
swelling, which is the enlargement of organs or other body
parts due to the buildup of fluid in body tissues.  This excess
fluid can possibly lead to a rapid weight gain in a few days or
weeks.  The National Institutes of Health notes that some
swelling is perfectly normal – such as edema in the lower legs
in the summertime, or in a person who has been standing for
long periods of time – but it can also indicate serious health
problems , such as heart failure.  

Under conditions of heart failure, blood coming out of the heart
may slow, so that returning blood backs up in veins and fluid is
trapped in tissues.  The American Heart Association  notes that
swelling in the kidney may prevent it from maintaining healthy
levels of water and sodium in the body, exacerbating edema.

2.        
Dyspnea (shortness of breath).  We all have days when
we can’t climb the stairs without breathing hard, or become
winded after running across the street.  Many people feel out
of breath while lying flat, and prop themselves up with pillows
without giving it another thought. However, The American
Heart Association warns that these may be signs of heart
failure.  

Dyspnea occurs when blood backs up in the veins when
returning to the heart, because the heart is not pumping with
enough strength – this blood then leaks into the lungs and
affects breathing.  

If you find yourself consistently short of breath after the most
basic of actions (setting the table, for example) or sleeping at
an incline so that you breath better, you might want to consult
a physician about heart failure. (Read more about other
causes
of shortness of breath and remedies that help.)

3.        
Cognitive Impairment (Confusion).  It is easy to see
why signs of confusion may pass by untreated – cognitive
impairment is common amongst the elderly, whether or not
there is coinciding heart failure.  

But being confused or
forgetfulness can sometimes be a sign of
heart failure. In 2002, Barbara Riegel and a team of nurses and
doctors with the Schools of Nursing at University of
Pennsylvania, University of California in San Francisco and San
Diego, and the Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, studied
various forms of “impairment” amongst patients with heart
failure.  

Tests showed that 50% of patients with heart failure suffered
cognitive impairment,  leading the experts to conclude that
“cognitive impairment is relatively common in patients with
heart failure.”   

Mailing letters without stamps, forgetting your address, or
wearing two different kinds of socks might indicate something
more consequential than an “off day.” It could indicate heart
failure.

4.        
Constant coughing and wheezing.  


Continue reading          page 1        
page 2






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Forgetfulness is a common sign of heart failure,
studies show.
If you have a open air market near
you, then that's where you should
pick up dark greens, carrots and
onions. Vegetables from farm
markets are fresh and often less
expensive.

Prepare these with olive oil and a
little water over low heat until they
are soft.

Add diced tomatoes, more water and
cook on low heat.

In a separate pan, grill onions until
they are caramelized and add to these
to the main soup.

As a side meat, grill fish of your
choice, preferably salmon, halibut or
tuna. If these can't be found or are
too expensive, grill any white fish of
your choice except swordfish.  Don't
add salt. If you need more flavor, use
garlic, rosemary and basil.

For more
meal ideas for those with a
combination of heart disease, high
blood pressure and diabetes, click
here.
Heart Failure -Meal Ideas