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Facts For Fighting Heart Failure

A Silent Killer 

Heart failure is surprisingly common among American adults — about 5.7 million have it, and it plays a role in more than 10 percent of deaths. It occurs when your body can’t pump enough blood to meet its needs. Recognizing its symptoms is not always easy. For some there are no obvious symptoms.

Risk factors for heart failure include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and obesity. If you have one or more of these risk factors, the following symptoms could indicate heart failure:

• Shortness of breath: Heart failure can cause fluid to back up in your lungs, making it harder to breathe.

• Rapid or irregular heartbeat: When your heart can’t pump blood as effectively as it should, your heartbeat increases to move blood around your body.

• Lightheadedness or confusion: With less blood flow to your brain, you may find it harder to concentrate.

• Swollen ankles: When your kidneys don’t get sufficient blood flow, you could start retaining water.

• Fatigue or weakness: If your heart can’t pump blood to your organs or muscles, you’ll feel tired or weak and have difficulty with everyday activities. 

If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They can help you with a preventive plan to avoid heart failure, or refer you for treatment if necessary.

Blood Pressure — 130 is the new 140 

The guidelines for blood pressure published by the American Heart Association recently changed, and what was considered normal for many is now considered elevated. Anyone with blood pressure higher than 130/80 will be considered to have hypertension, or high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes, aortic aneurysms and many others. When your cardiologist or primary care doctor checks your blood pressure, they compare it with the normal range set by the guidelines published by the American Heart Association. If your blood pressure is over the recommended range, they will want to create a treatment plan to help lower it. A treatment plan does not always mean that you need to start taking medications right away. 

We encourage you to take charge of your heart health and work with your primary care doctor or cardiologist to manage your blood pressure. If you are unsure of your blood pressure the first step to taking charge is understanding what your blood pressure is. You can have your blood pressure checked at any local pharmacy, health fair, or with an at-home blood pressure device. Then schedule a visit with your primary care doctor to talk about your blood pressure, how often it should be measured, and if it is within a normal range. 

Changing your lifestyle is always the first step in treatment, and that includes removing as much stress as possible, cutting down on salt intake and stopping smoking. 

Other ways to naturally control your blood pressure include watching what you eat and increasing your daily physical activity. Just by reducing your daily caloric intake, adding more raw vegetables to your diet and walking at least 20 minutes a day, you can impact your blood pressure significantly.

Your heart’s health is nothing to take lightly so if you have any risk factors that increase your chances of having high blood pressure, talk to your doctor right away.

Signs of Heart Attack: 

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, dial 911.

> Shortness of breath

> Pain in the neck, shoulders or jaw

> Chest discomfort or pain

> Heart palpitations

> Cold sweats with clammy skin

> Pain in one or both arms