Heart failure is a term used to refer to the heart’s inability to pump a sufficient supply of blood to the entire body. Without receiving adequate blood flow, all the major functions of the body get disrupted. The term heart failure refers to a collection of symptoms that weakens the heart.
Heart failure also increases the risk of many other health conditions, such as liver and kidney damage. Heart failure can also increase the risk of developing problems with the heart valve or an irregular heartbeat. There are different types of heart failure, out of which left-sided heart failure is more common. There are two types of heart failure – systolic and diastolic. Here’s how you can lower the risk of complications with left-sided heart failure.
Heart Failure and Complications
Heart failure can increase the risk of many health conditions, including liver and kidney damage.(1,2,3,4) It can also increase the risk of developing issues with the heart valve and an irregular heartbeat. If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, it means that your heart is not able to pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. Heart failure may begin either on the left side of the heart or on the right side.(5)
Heart failure can be of different types, but left-sided heart failure is more common. Left-sided heart failure can be of two kinds – systolic and diastolic. Both systolic and diastolic heart failure can increase the risk of having similar types of complications. For example, one of the most common complications seen in people with left-sided heart failure is right-sided heart failure.(6)
If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, there are many steps you can take to decrease the risk of having complications from heart failure. Following your treatment plan, as told by your doctor, and leading a healthy lifestyle are the first steps you should take.
Understanding more about left-sided heart failure can also help you lower your risk of complications. Here are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of complications with left-sided heart failure.
5 Ways to Lower the Risk of Complications with Left-Side Heart Failure
Follow your Treatment Plan
The most important thing you can do to lower your risk of developing complications due to left-sided heart failure is to follow your doctor’s treatment plan. When heart failure is managed correctly, it is less likely to worsen, and the more likely it is that you will feel better. You will be able to have a better quality of life also when you are taking the medications as per your prescription and following all the recommendations of your doctor.
It can be a challenge to remember to keep taking your medications daily, and of course, to manage the cost involved in treating heart failure.
In fact, a study carried out in 2013 found that out of 178,102 heart failure patients in the United States, only 52 percent of patients were taking their medications regularly. The study was published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.(7)
If you are facing any kind of financial challenges in continuing with your treatment or buying your medications, you should let your doctor know. Your doctor might be able to change your treatment plan to a less expensive one and also prescribe generic versions of the medicines that cost less.(8) If you are having trouble remembering when to take your pills, you should set up a daily alarm or ask your family or friends to help you remember about your medications.
Download a Medical App
In today’s world, it seems everything can be done with the help of a mobile application, and taking care of your health can also be done through an app. When you have any type of heart failure, be it left-sided or right-sided, managing your condition and taking care of your health is going to be a lot of work. There are many different apps on smartphones that can help you keep track of your appointments, medications, symptoms, and even your overall state of mind. For example, the Heart Failure Society of American has a free mobile app called the Heart Failure Storylines.(9) There are many other similar apps that you can download onto your smartphone to help you manage everything in one place.
A 2018 study done by the University of South Florida reviewed 18 older reports on mobile health applications for heart failure. The researchers found that there is a general trend that indicates that these health apps made a significant difference to people who used them regularly. The study also reported that such apps were a cost-effected way of reminding people to take care of their health on their own.(10)
It is essential that you get some amount of physical activity daily. Your doctor is also likely to recommend you to incorporate exercises in the overall plan of managing your heart condition. Depending on the extent of your heart failure and the severity of your symptoms, your doctor is going to recommend that you follow a cardiac rehabilitation program.
For most people, the best exercise they can get started with is simply walking. You can start building upon this gradually by walking for longer times and at a faster pace as you find your fitness level improving. However, if you are finding it challenging to do even moderate amounts of physical activity, you should let your doctor know about it and see what they recommend.
It surprises many heart failure patients to know that many exercising or fitness programs actually use high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for heart patients.(11) This type of exercise alternates between doing very intense cardio exercises with regular, short breaks. A 2018 study found that high-intensity interval training can help heart failure patients, and it works best when combined with other traditional exercising approaches.(12) However, do not start doing high-intensity interval training without first discussing it with your doctor.
Have a Healthy Diet
Consuming heart-healthy foods is an essential part of managing heart failure. After your diagnosis, your doctor may recommend that you visit a dietitian to help you come up with a meal plan that works best for you.
There are two popular diets that are usually recommended for people who have heart failure. These include the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan.(13,14)
A 2017 study found that both diets can be helpful for people with heart failure, with the DASH diet having slightly more benefits than the Mediterranean diet. The researchers recommended that more research was needed on the Mediterranean diet while noting that the DASH diet plan also provides benefits such as healthier or improved cardiac function in heart failure patients.(15)
If you do not want to follow a specialized diet, the other option you can follow is to choose heart-healthy foods regularly. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people follow certain heart-healthy principles while making their meals.(16) These include:
- Choose highly nutritious foods: The aim of making your meal should be to include wholesome and simple foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. You should stick to having no-fat or low-fat dairy products.
- Restrict the intake of certain foods: Make an effort to reduce or restrict the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar. It is best to cut out trans fats entirely from your diet.
Take Care Of Your Mental Health
Being diagnosed with heart failure is bound to be a difficult time. It can cause a lot of emotional distress, which can make it harder for a person to stay healthy and take the steps required to manage their condition. According to the Cleveland Clinic in the US, depression, and stress can significantly increase the risk of having heart-related problems like a heart attack and chest pain.(17) However, being diagnosed with heart failure can be a highly stressful event in anyone’s life, and it may also lead people to feel depressed.
If you have been feeling depressed or experiencing anxiety and stress, it is best to talk to your doctor. They may recommend that you visit a mental health expert in your area. You can also search for and visit a mental health professional or therapist on your own.
Remember to reach out to your friends and family to seek their support during this time and let them know that you want to talk. Talking to someone is a good way to voice out your emotions and helps relieve stress. You may also consider joining a support group in your area online.
The American Heart Association offers various online support networks through its website.(18,19,20)
What Are The Complications Of Heart Failure?
It is crucial that you are aware of the potential complications of heart failure. These complications can be severe and sometimes even be life-threatening. This is why it is so essential that you follow your doctor’s advice and take steps to lower the risk of developing these complications.
Here are some of the most common complications that may arise due to heart failure:
- Issues With The Heart Valve: Heart failure can sometimes change the size of the heart, placing pressure on the four heart valves that are responsible for transporting blood in and out of the heart. These changes in size can have an impact on how well the heart valves work.
- Irregular Heartbeat: Known as arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat is a common complication with left-sided heart failure. Arrhythmia can cause your heart to beat faster, slower, or at a rhythm that is less than efficient in pumping out blood. This can cause the blood to accumulate and form blood clots. Such conditions can be life-threatening and can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism.(21)
- Liver Damage: Heart failure puts more pressure on the liver, which can lead to scarring. This can affect how the liver functions.(22)
- Kidney Damage: A reduced blood flow to the kidneys can cause damage to the kidneys and cause them to fail over time. In severe cases, people may need dialysis to deal with such kidney complications.(23)
Managing your health after being diagnosed with heart failure can help reduce the risk of complications from heart failure. Following your treatment plan, taking your medications, consuming heart-healthy foods, exercising regularly, and taking care of your mental health can make a huge difference in reducing potential complications of heart failure. If you are concerned that you could be at a high risk of complications, you should talk to your doctor and learn about what all you can do to lower your risk.
- Kannel, W.B. and Belanger, A.J., 1991. Epidemiology of heart failure. American heart journal, 121(3), pp.951-957.
- Cowie, M.R., Mosterd, A., Wood, D.A., Deckers, J.W., Poole-Wilson, P.A., Sutton, G. and Grobbee, D., 1997. The epidemiology of heart failure. European heart journal, 18(2), pp.208-225.
- Roger, V.L., 2013. Epidemiology of heart failure. Circulation research, 113(6), pp.646-659.
- Mosterd, A. and Hoes, A.W., 2007. Clinical epidemiology of heart failure. Heart, 93(9), pp.1137-1146.
- Ponikowski, P., Anker, S.D., AlHabib, K.F., Cowie, M.R., Force, T.L., Hu, S., Jaarsma, T., Krum, H., Rastogi, V., Rohde, L.E. and Samal, U.C., 2014. Heart failure: preventing disease and death worldwide. ESC heart failure, 1(1), pp.4-25.
- Badgett, R.G., Lucey, C.R. and Mulrow, C.D., 1997. Can the clinical examination diagnose left-sided heart failure in adults?. Jama, 277(21), pp.1712-1719.
- Zhang, Y., Wu, S.H., Fendrick, A.M. and Baicker, K., 2013. Variation in medication adherence in heart failure. JAMA internal medicine, 173(6), pp.468-470.
- Ganther, J.M. and Kreling, D.H., 2000. Consumer perceptions of risk and required cost savings for generic prescription drugs. Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association (1996), 40(3), pp.378-383.
- Myhealthapps.net. 2020. Myhealthapps.Net. [online] Available at: <http://myhealthapps.net/app/details/550/heart-failure-storylines> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
- Athilingam, P. and Jenkins, B., 2018. Mobile phone apps to support heart failure self-care management: integrative review. JMIR cardio, 2(1), p.e10057.
- Ellingsen, Ø., Halle, M., Conraads, V., Støylen, A., Dalen, H., Delagardelle, C., Larsen, A.I., Hole, T., Mezzani, A., Van Craenenbroeck, E.M. and Videm, V., 2017. High-intensity interval training in patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. Circulation, 135(9), pp.839-849.
- Giallauria, F., Piccioli, L., Vitale, G. and Sarullo, F.M., 2018. Exercise training in patients with chronic heart failure: A new challenge for Cardiac Rehabilitation Community. Monaldi Archives for Chest Disease, 88(3).
- Fitó, M., Estruch, R., Salas‐Salvadó, J., Martínez‐Gonzalez, M.A., Arós, F., Vila, J., Corella, D., Díaz, O., Sáez, G., De La Torre, R. and Mitjavila, M.T., 2014. Effect of the Mediterranean diet on heart failure biomarkers: a randomized sample from the PREDIMED trial. European journal of heart failure, 16(5), pp.543-550.
- Levitan, E.B., Wolk, A. and Mittleman, M.A., 2009. Consistency with the DASH diet and incidence of heart failure. Archives of internal medicine, 169(9), pp.851-857.
- dos Reis Padilha, G., Sanches Machado d’Almeida, K., Ronchi Spillere, S. and Corrêa Souza, G., 2018. Dietary patterns in secondary prevention of heart failure: a systematic review. Nutrients, 10(7), p.828.
- www.heart.org. 2020. The American Heart Association Diet And Lifestyle Recommendations. [online] Available at: <https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
- Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Emotions & Heart Failure. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17074-heart-failure-emotional-aspects> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
- Silver, M.A., 2010. Depression and heart failure: an overview of what we know and don’t know. Cleve Clin J Med, 77(Suppl 3), pp.S7-S11.
- Konstam, V., Moser, D.K. and De Jong, M.J., 2005. Depression and anxiety in heart failure. Journal of cardiac failure, 11(6), pp.455-463.
- Celano, C.M., Villegas, A.C., Albanese, A.M., Gaggin, H.K. and Huffman, J.C., 2018. Depression and anxiety in heart failure: a review. Harvard review of psychiatry, 26(4), p.175.
- Kjekshus, J., 1990. Arrhythmias and mortality in congestive heart failure. The American journal of cardiology, 65(19), pp.42-48.
- Giallourakis, C.C., Rosenberg, P.M. and Friedman, L.S., 2002. The liver in heart failure. Clinics in liver disease, 6(4), pp.947-967.
- Metra, M., Cotter, G., Gheorghiade, M., Dei Cas, L. and Voors, A.A., 2012. The role of the kidney in heart failure. European heart journal, 33(17), pp.2135-2142.
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