According to Heartmate.com, approximately 6 million people in the United States deal with congestive heart failure. The number of cases ranges from 800,000 to 900,000. It is very alarming to hear that 1.8% of the total US population deal with this condition.
Heart failure is not synonymous with a heart attack. When we refer to heart failure, we mention that the heart is not getting strong. The organ itself is diminishing throughout time. If the heart starts to weaken, the blood flow will be inadequate, therefore causing the body to be significantly affected.
What is Heart Failure?
As mentioned earlier, heart failure is a weak heart that cannot sustain its strength. Many factors contribute to heart failure, and one must recognize the severity of it.
A healthy heart consists of blood continually flowing throughout the body. When the heart relaxes, it fills with blood. The squeezing of the core causes the blood to carry the nutrients as well. When heart failure occurs, the squeezing is almost non-existent; therefore, less blood throughout the body.
Heart failure is a chronic condition and will worsen over time. The essential ingredient is to understand the situation. The more you can gain knowledge of heart failure, the better your options on recognizing the symptoms, and to properly treat it.
Symptoms of Heart Failure
The symptoms that deal with heart failure are pretty consistent for each person. When one is experiencing these symptoms regularly, contact your primary care physician immediately. The sooner, the better so they can recommend what to do.
The symptoms are as follows:
- You experience a shortness of breath
- Persistent coughing that shows pink/reddish mucus
- Your ankles, feet, legs are swollen, or any sudden weight gain
- Your appetite starts to wean — feeling nauseous
- Very confused
- Heart rate is becoming rapid
These symptoms are vital since you might not know why it is occurring. The symptoms may be benign; however, you may never know until you contact your physician. They will be able to further recommendations on what future appointments to make. If the symptoms are significantly affecting your health and you start to feel dizzy, don’t hesitate to call 911 or local emergency for help. Do not dismiss and try to self-diagnose!
What Are Some Causes of Heart Failure?
There are many underlying issues that a person may not recognize at first. Heart failure can slowly develop in the early stages, yet it won’t be evident until the symptoms happen over and over again. If the heart is stiff, the pumping action will be challenging to have blood flow continuously throughout your body. When the heart is thick, the blood will no correctly fill in between the heartbeats.
The following conditions are causes of heart failure:
- Coronary Artery Disease – This is the most common type of heart disease, which contributes to heart failure. When the infection occurs, fatty deposits (plaque) are built up in the arteries, which will, unfortunately, lead to a severe heart attack
- High Blood Pressure, aka Hypertension – when your blood pressure reaches a high reading, that means your heart has to work harder for the blood to circulate throughout your body. Once the high blood pressure is evident and occurs consistently, the heart muscle becomes weak to pump blood.
- Heart Valves Aren’t Working Properly – when your valves aren’t working as it should, the blood flow won’t be going in the proper location. A damaged valve means that the heart has to work harder (similar to high blood pressure patients) and weaken over time.
- Damaged Heart Muscle – Consuming over the recommended alcohol, taking drugs (cocaine), or having an infection contributes to a damaged heart muscle. Also, genetics can play a role. You would have to consult with your physician on the genetics aspect of it.
- Myocarditis – when your heart swells, you will develop Myocarditis. A virus of some sort can cause Myocarditis, as well.
- Other diseases – diabetes, HIV, hyper/hypothyroidism, all give you a higher risk for heart failure.
What Are Some Risk Factors?
While a single risk can cause heart failure, knowing the other risk factors will better prepare you.
The most common heart risk factors are:
- Coronary Heart Disease
- Heart Attack
- Diabetes (either Type I or II)
- Medications (any pain-relieving, anesthesia meds, or anti-arrhythmic meds)
- Sleep Apnea
- Alcohol Use
- Tobacco Use
- Irregular Heartbeat
These risk factors are not limited to one list; however, your primary care physician will explain more in detail the different ones. Again, while a single risk can contribute to heart failure, experiencing more than one will increase your chances.
How To Prevent Heart Failure?
When a veteran realizes that they have heart failure, they must be able to take action and do their best to treat it. If you consume alcohol daily, try limiting your use. Incorporate an active lifestyle to keep your heart flowing and helping your overall bodily function. If you have high blood pressure, read this article for tips on starting immediately. The more you know about preventing heart failure, the better you can understand the benefits and lessen your risks.
VA Disability Rating
Your primary care physician must perform a MET (Metabolic Equivalent of Task) for any heart condition test. The MET test is like an exercise test that checks oxygen being utilized, coupled with strenuous tasks. The primary care physician will use 1 MET equalling the amount of oxygen use at rest. A MET test MUST give you a specific rating for certain conditions. These are as follows:
100% on one or more of the following:
- Continuous heart failure
- Three or fewer METs on the shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue or fainting
- The left ventricle of the heart is pumping less than 30% of blood
60% on one or more of the following:
- Congestive heart failure occurs two or more times in the past year
- 4 or 5 METs on the shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue or fainting
- The left ventricle of the heart is pumping between 30% – 50% of blood
30% on one or more of the following:
- 6 or 7 METs on the shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue or fainting
- Electro-Cardiogram showing hypertrophy but not enough for dilation
10% on one or more of the following:
- 8, 9, or 10 METs on the shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue or fainting
- Daily medication
As a veteran with congestive heart failure, it is essential to understand the symptoms, treatments, and ratings. You must be able to consult with your physician on further instruction. By learning the basic terminology, you can educate yourself and help others as well!
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