When the Heart Is Too Weak to Supply Enough Blood to Meet the Body's Need
Shortness of breath, swelling of the feet and legs, dizziness, chronic coughing or wheezing, fatigue and sleep disturbance. What many people dismiss as a sign of old age can have a serious background: heart failure.
Heart failure is a decline in the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen1, typically because the heart muscle is weak, stiff or both.
Worldwide, over 60 million people are suffering from this disease2. It is the main cause of hospitalization in patients over the age of 65 years3. One in five people are currently expected to develop heart failure in their lifetime.2,4 As the world’s population ages, the burden of HF is anticipated to increase.4 Despite advances in management, the disease remains as malignant, or lethal, as some common cancers and has a significant impact on quality of life.5
For patients living with heart failure, day-to-day life can be a struggle. Quality of life is tremendously decreased and simple activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying shopping can become increasingly difficult.
What Happens in the Body When Suffering from Heart Failure?
Who Is at Risk - Keep Track of Signs and Symptoms
With increasing age, everyone loses more and more the ability to pump enough blood to the heart. But many people who develop heart failure have (or had) another heart condition first. The most common conditions that can lead to heart failure are chronic coronary artery disease, high blood pressure or previous heart attack.6
Patients living with heart failure can experience a variety of symptoms including shortness of breath, edema (swelling of feet and legs), chronic coughing or wheezing, dizziness, fatigue and sleep disturbance.7 While these can often be subtle, or confused with other conditions or aspects of daily life, it’s important for patients to closely track symptoms and identify any changes they see.
When Symptoms Worsen
The progression of symptoms can be frightening and reach a point where urgent treatment or hospitalization is needed. With each such event, the heart gets weaker and weaker and the risk of having further hospitalizations or needing urgent treatment increases.
It can be distressing, ultimately resulting in a downward spiral of heart failure events, even if patients are being treated with guideline-recommended heart failure therapies. After a hospitalization, more than half of heart failure patients are back in hospital within 30 days, with each hospital visit, the risk of death increases.8,9 50% of people affected die within five years of diagnosis.10 This means despite available treatments, mortality and morbidity of heart failure are still high and quality of life is poor. There is a high unmet medical need for effective treatments to slow disease progression and reduce the number of hospitalizations.
Take Care of Yourself
As for many other cardiovascular diseases it is important to protect the heart by living as healthy as possible: eating healthy food, which means more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed foods; maintaining a healthy weight; getting regular exercise and not smoking.
When recognizing signs and symptoms of heart failure it is important to see a doctor. The earlier the disease is diagnosed and can be treated, the greater the chances of improving the quality of life of those affected.
Discover More: The Heart – the Hardest Working Muscle
1 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, NHLBI. Heart Failure. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-failure. Accessed February 2020
2 Vos T, et al. A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2017;390:1211–59.
3 Gheorghiade M, et al. Rehospitalization for Heart Failure. Journal of American College of Cardiology. 2013; 6:3910-493.
4 Savarese G, et al. Global Public Health Burden of Heart Failure. Cardiac Failure Review. 2017;3:1:7-1.
5 Mamas MM, et al. Do patients have worse outcomes in heart failure than in cancer? A primary care-based cohort study with 10-year follow-up in Scotland. European Journal of Heart Failure. 2017;19:1095-1104.
6 American Heart Association. Causes and Risks for Heart Failure. 2020. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/causes-and-risks-for-heart-failure. Accessed November 2020.
7 Mayo Clinic. Heart Failure. 2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373142. Accessed February 2020.
8 Butler J, et al. Clinical Course of Patients With Worsening Heart Failure With Reduced Ejection Fraction. Journal of American College of Cardiology. 2019;73:935-944.
9 Setoguchi S, Stevenson LW, Schneeweiss S. Repeated hospitalizations predict mortality in the community population with heart failure. American Heart Journal. 2007;154(2):260-266.
10 Roger VL. Epidemiology of Heart Failure. Circulation Research. 2013;113:646–659.