Heart Failure (cont.)

Quick Quiz

  1. Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood through the body.

TRUE is the correct answer. Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood through the body. Heart failure develops over time as the pumping action of the heart gets weaker.

  1. When the heart's pumping ability is weakened, this can cause swelling in the ankles and legs, shortness of breath, and fluid in the lungs.

TRUE is the correct answer. The weakening of the heart's pumping ability causes a number of things to happen -- blood and fluid can back up into the lungs, and fluid builds up in the feet, ankles, and legs. People with heart failure often experience tiredness and shortness of breath.

  1. Heart failure is most common in those who are under 65 years old.

FALSE is the correct answer. Heart failure is most common in those who are age 65 years and older and is the number one reason older people are hospitalized.

  1. Men have a higher rate of heart failure than women.

TRUE is the correct answer. Heart failure tends to be more common in men than in women, but because women usually live longer, it affects more women in their 70s and 80s.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Heart failure can happen to almost anyone. It is most common in people over 65, and is more common in African-Americans. Also, men have a higher rate of heart failure than women. It is the number one reason for hospitalization for people over age 65.

Heart failure is caused by other diseases or conditions that damage the heart muscle. It is often caused by coronary artery disease, including heart attacks. Diabetes and high blood pressure also contribute to heart failure risk.

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in men and women. It happens when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become hardened and narrowed. People who have had a heart attack are at high risk to develop heart failure.

There are a number of things that you can do to reduce risk of coronary artery disease and heart failure.

Keeping your cholesterol levels healthy can help prevent coronary artery disease. For most people, the targets are:

  • LDL, or "bad" cholesterol -- below 100
  • HDL, or "good" cholesterol -- above 40 in men and above 50 in women
  • Triglycerides, another fat in the blood -- below 150

High blood pressure causes the heart to get larger and work harder, which can then lead to heart failure. You should aim for a blood pressure level of 130/80 or below. Talk to your doctor about ways to lower your blood pressure.

Diabetes is characterized by having too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood for a long time. This can cause heart problems because high blood glucose can damage parts of the body such as the heart and blood vessels. This damage weakens the heart, often leading to heart failure.

You can help prevent heart disease by losing weight if you are overweight, quitting smoking, and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink. Doctors also recommend that you eat a diet low in salt because salt can cause extra fluid to build up in your body.

Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat or cholesterol, such as meats, butter, dairy products with fat, eggs, shortening, lard, and foods with palm oil or coconut oil, can help you maintain a heart-healthy diet. Heart-healthy foods include those high in fiber, such as oat bran, oatmeal, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.

Exercise also helps keep your heart strong. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of exercise.

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