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What Is Heart Failure and How Is It Treated?

Heart diseases are the number one cause of death globally, according to the WHO. Each year, cardiovascular diseases take around 17.9 million lives worldwide, and yet, heart failure remains largely ignored in the public eye.

As this week is the Heart Failure Awareness Week 2020, our experts at Pacific Prime Dubai have curated all the key things you need to know about heart failure, including its causes, symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, and more.

Read on to find out how you can stay safe from this deadly disease today, tomorrow, and years to come!

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What is heart failure?

In Dubai, heart failure is no stranger to the city. In fact, residents in the UAE suffer from heart attacks around 20 years earlier than the rest of the world. This makes it extremely important for anyone living in the UAE to understand what the risk factors of heart failure are.

Heart failure vs Heart attack

Heart failure and heart attack are different conditions, but they are both forms of heart disease.

  • Heart failure: A condition where the heart can’t pump sufficient blood to the rest of the body. The condition usually develops gradually.
  • Heart attack: A heart attack occurs when there is a sudden loss of blood supply in the heart, leading to the death of a segment of the heart muscle. This is usually due to a blood clot in one of the arteries.

“Heart failure develops over time as the heart’s pumping action grows weaker. The condition can affect the right side of the heart only, or it can affect both sides of the heart,” US Department of Health & Human Services.

In other words, heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart has stopped pumping blood. Instead, it’s a chronic condition that gradually gets worse as the years go by.

Types of heart failure

Heart failure can occur on either or both sides of our heart, and like a tired muscle, it can be either too loose or too stiff. Hence, there are four main types of heart failure.

Type of heart failure

Description

Left-sided heart failure

  • It’s the most common type of heart failure
  • Occurs when the left ventricle (located at the bottom left side of the heart) doesn’t pump blood efficiently
  • Blood then backs up into the lungs, causing shortness of breath and buildup of fluid

Right-sided heart failure

  • Occurs on the right side of the heart
  • When the right heart ventricle does not effectively pump blood to the lungs to collect oxygen
  • Can occur as a result of lung disease

Diastolic heart failure

  • Occurs when the heart muscle becomes too stiff
  • Causes blood not to fill the heart properly
  • Leads to lack of blood flow to the rest of the body
Systolic heart failure
  • Occurs when the heart muscles start to lose its ability to contract
  • This causes the heart to become weak and enlarged
  • Leads to the ineffectiveness of pumping oxygen-rich blood out to the rest of the body

SOURCE: Healthline

Heart failure causes

Heart failure is often caused by other diseases. These include:

  • Other heart diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • And more

Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between these diseases and heart failure.

Other heart diseases

Other heart diseases can weaken the functioning of the heart, leading to chronic heart failure.

For instance, ischemic heart disease occurs when a waxy sticky substance (better-known fat or lipid deposits) builds up inside the coronary arteries. The substance disrupts the functioning of the heart by limiting blood flow through the heart. Over time, this can lead to heart failure.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure pushes blood against the artery walls. Over time, this can weaken the heart, leading to heart failure.

Diabetes

High levels of sugar in the blood can damage the heart over time. This then leads to heart failure.

Other causes

There are many other factors that can weaken or damage the heart, leading it to pump insufficient oxygen-rich blood to other organs in the body. These factors include:

  • HIV/AIDs
  • Excess vitamin E
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Cocaine use
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Chemotherapy
  • And more

Heart failure symptoms

The symptoms of heart failure are difficult to spot because of two reasons:

  1. The symptoms overlap with many other less serious diseases
  2. The symptoms often develop very gradually

Nevertheless, it’s always recommended to visit a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in areas such as the veins in the neck, ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen

How is heart failure diagnosed?

There is currently no single method that is able to diagnose whether you have heart failure. Typically, diagnosis of heart failure comes in three phases, including:

  1. Investigating your family medical history
  2. Performing a physical exam
  3. Doing more specialized diagnostic tests

Family history

When you visit the hospital, the first thing your doctor may do is ask whether you have any family members who suffer from heart disease.

This is because heart failure can be caused by other heart diseases that are hereditary.

Physical exam

Next, your doctor may also perform a physical exam. These include:

  • Listening to your heart for abnormal sounds
  • Listening to your breathing to identify whether there are any extra fluid buildup in your lungs
  • Check your neck, ankles, feet, legs, and abdomen for any swelling

Diagnostic tests

Finally, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist – a specialist doctor in the field of heart diseases.

The cardiologist may then perform various diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram – records the electrical activity of your heart
  • Echocardiogram – a type of ultrasound scan used to examine your heart
  • Chest x-ray
  • Breathing tests

After these three stages of diagnosis, your doctor will be able to tell you whether you are experiencing heart failure.

Heart failure treatment

There is currently no cure for heart failure. Treatments often target underlying diseases that lead to heart failure, medicine aimed at reducing symptoms, or lifestyle changes.

While underlying disease treatment and medicine choice may not be fully within your control, you can start making lifestyle changes today to avoid heart failure. These lifestyle changes include:

  1. Eating heart-healthy food – avoid food with high sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and added sugar
  2. Exercising regularly – King’s College Hospital Dubai recommends these exercises for adults aged 18-64
  3. Quitting smoking – smoking increases your risk of developing heart diseases

Health insurance coverage for heart failure

Since heart failure is a chronic medical condition, obtaining pre-existing condition insurance without the help of an expert can be difficult.

This is because many plans may not offer health insurance coverage for heart failure, while others may set limits on benefits relating to heart failure treatment, set high premiums, or impose a waiting period.

For this reason, it is highly recommended that you consult an expert like Pacific Prime so that you’ll get the most cost-effective plan possible. Pacific Prime partners with global health insurance companies in Dubai to deliver bespoke health insurance solutions to all its clients.

If you’d like to know more about health failure coverage or any other health insurance-related matters, feel free to contact our team or visit our website for a no-obligation, free quote today!

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Phuwit

Content Creator at Pacific Prime Dubai
Phuwit is a content writer who helps inform readers on insurance-related issues through writing articles, blogs, and more. Phuwit strives to produce quality content that makes insurance easier to understand for readers.

In his free time, Phuwit enjoys reading and playing badminton. He also loves a good cup of coffee.
Phuwit