The Top Five Signs of Heart Failure: A Cardiologist’s Insights
In the United Kingdom, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of approximately a quarter of the population. This term encompasses a range of conditions affecting the heart and circulatory system, with heart failure standing out as a serious and potentially life-threatening long-term condition.
Understanding Heart Failure
Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to efficiently pump blood throughout the body, typically due to weakness or stiffness. As a condition that tends to worsen over time, early detection becomes crucial for timely medical intervention. Renowned London-based cardiologist, Dr. Hafiz Naderi, sheds light on the top five warning signs of heart failure to empower individuals with the knowledge they need to seek prompt medical attention.
1. Breathlessness: A Pivotal Symptom
Dr. Naderi identifies breathlessness as the primary and most significant symptom of heart failure. He emphasizes that in heart failure, the heart struggles to match the body’s oxygen demands, leading to a distinct feeling of breathlessness, particularly during physical exertion. This sensation may intensify when lying flat, owing to fluid accumulation in the lungs. Dr. Naderi advises that patients with heart failure often find relief by using multiple pillows to aid breathing and enhance comfort during sleep.
2. Swelling: Unmasking Fluid Build-Up
Swelling, or edema, emerges as a common indicator of heart failure, with the extremities, such as ankles, being particularly prone. Dr. Naderi explains that this swelling results from the inadequate pumping action of the failing heart, causing fluid to accumulate. Patients frequently report that swelling worsens as the day progresses and improves upon waking, a phenomenon attributed to gravity pushing fluid to the extremities throughout the day.
3. Weight Gain: The Impact of Fluid Retention
Linked to fluid build-up, weight gain is a critical aspect of heart failure management. Dr. Naderi highlights the importance of determining a patient’s dry weight, signifying their weight when free from fluid build-up. This information aids in titrating medication dosages and setting weight goals for effective management.
4. Palpitations: Signaling Heart Strain
Palpitations, the sensation of a pounding or racing heart, signify the heart’s struggle to meet the body’s demands. Dr. Naderi notes that patients with heart failure often present with a high heart rate, indicative of the heart’s overcompensation. This heightened activity may also lead to abnormal rhythms, particularly atrial fibrillation.
5. Tiredness: A Vague Yet Concerning Symptom
While tiredness may seem less specific, Dr. Naderi underscores its significance as a potential sign of heart failure. Patients diagnosed with heart failure often express persistent fatigue, attributed to the heart’s relentless effort to cope with its weakened state.
Taking Action: Seeking Medical Attention
In line with NHS recommendations, individuals experiencing persistent or worsening symptoms of heart failure should promptly consult their general practitioner. In cases of sudden or severe symptoms, a call to emergency services or a visit to the nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department is imperative.
Understanding the warning signs of heart failure is paramount for early detection and effective management. Dr. Hafiz Naderi’s insights provide a valuable guide for individuals to recognize these symptoms promptly, facilitating timely medical intervention. Remember, your heart health is of utmost importance, and recognizing the signs of heart failure could be a lifesaving endeavor.