India is reeling under the burden of cardiovascular diseases. On average, Indians are diagnosed with heart attack 8-10 years earlier than other ethnic groups. The most unfortunate fact is that 40 per cent of people in our country who develop heart attack are under the age of 55. Potential complications from a heart attack can vary widely; from mild to life-threatening, one of them is heart failure. Heart failure is the leading cause of mortality amongst all heart diseases; with 23 per cent patients succumbing within one year of their diagnosis which makes Heart attack and heart failure are the major causes of concerns for Indians.
According to Dr Ambuj Roy, Professor of Cardiology – AIIMS, New Delhi and Convenor – Heart Failure Council, Cardiological Society of India (CSI), “In India, the overall awareness about heart failure, is very low and it is often confused with heart attack, which occurs due to total blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle. Whereas, heart failure is caused due to the weakening of heart muscle, which becomes stiff over time reducing the heart’s ability to pump blood properly to the vital organs of the body. Most heart failure patients are admitted to the hospital at an advanced stage of the disease, as they fail to recognise the symptoms and are not aware of the advantages of early diagnosis. Basis of my clinical experience, of all the patients suffering from heart diseases, 10 per cent are heart failure patients.”
Heart attack vs. Heart Failure
Heart attack and heart failure isn’t the same thing. They’re two different problems with radically different causes and treatments.
A heart attack occurs when an artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle gets blocked due to cholesterol. This puts pressure on the heart muscle, making it work overtime and weakening it. The result is heart failure, where the heart is unable to properly pump oxygen and nutrients across the body. However, not all heart attacks lead to heart failure.
Research published by the American Heart Association states that “silent” heart attacks represent 45 per cent of all heart attacks. Patients usually don’t understand symptoms during a silent heart attack. However, patients might experience the after-effects of the damage from a heart attack, particularly symptoms of heart failure. One out of every four people who suffer a heart attack eventually develops heart failure within four years.
“In India, the overall awareness of heart diseases, specifically heart failure, remains low. People lack a basic understanding of heart failure, which is a progressive disease and impacts its ability to pump blood across the body. People often confuse the symptoms of heart failure with signs of old age and reach for diagnosis at an advanced stage. Many people don't recognise the warning signs of heart failure until their health and their lives are in jeopardy which is a matter of concern. At my OPD, out of the total number of patients that visit 40 per cent are women” shares Dr Devkishen Pahalajani, Cardiologist, Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai.
Prevention is better than cure
People who survive a heart attack can prevent the onset of heart failure by considering a few lifestyle changes. A heart attack is a life-threatening event. A patient is lucky to have survived such a serious medical incident. It’s crucial that the patient avoids getting back to their routine without the doctor’s consent which may take up to 3 months. It is important to adhere to the prescribed medications and any other lifestyle modifications that the doctor might advise you to follow.
Smoking increases the risk factor because it raises the blood pressure level. This prompts the heart to work harder to pump blood and has fewer healthy oxygen cells to maintain optimal performance. This can lead to further weakening of the heart muscle and may result in heart failure. Quit Today.
Manage chronic conditions -
Chronic conditions like diabetes and Blood pressure need to be effectively managed after a heart attack. Patients with Diabetics often fail to identify the symptoms of heart failure as the symptoms might get subdued due to ongoing diabetes treatment. This leads to delayed diagnosis and patients might reach the doctor at an advanced stage of heart failure and has to be hospitalised. High blood pressure makes the heart beat faster than normal. Left untreated, it scars and damages the arteries and can double the chance of heart failure.
Moderate physical activity in your daily routine -
Exercise helps regulate blood flow, maintain healthy body weight and control blood pressure. Heart patients can include short walks as part of their daily life. Patients should consult their doctor before taking up any exercise routine, to ensure it is safe for their health.
Eat a heart-healthy diet -
The food you eat has an impact on your blood flow. A diet that is high in “bad” fats (saturated and trans-fats) can cause build-up (plaque) in your arteries. Plaque slows or prevents blood flow from your heart. Over time, it can block your arteries and can cause a heart attack which can lead to heart failure. Eat more fruits and vegetables and avoid fried, salty and processed food.