Heart failure: Two words no one wants to hear a doctor say.
The fact is that nearly 6 million people in the US have heart failure—and that number is only growing, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Yes, heart failure is a serious health issue—one that should not be taken lightly. But a diagnosis of heart failure is not necessarily a death sentence.
Here are some of the myths, and the truth, about heart failure:
Myth: Heart Failure Means Your Heart Has Stopped Working.
Yes, the word "failure" typically means that something is no longer working. But that's not the case with heart failure, the NHLBI explains. Heart failure develops as the heart's ability to pump weakens.
A person can have heart failure on the right side of his heart, the left side, or both. During right-side heart failure, a person's heart cannot pump enough blood toward the lungs to receive oxygen. During left-side heart failure, the heart cannot pump enough of that oxygen-rich blood out to the rest of the body. Most people with heart failure have it on both sides of the heart, says the NHLBI.
The important thing to remember is that the heart is still pumping, but at a weakened capacity.
Myth: You Can't Do Anything To Prevent Heart Failure.
Heart failure—and heart disease in general—has two different types of risk factors: those you cannot control, and those you can, says the National Library of Medicine (NLM).
While you may not be able to change some factors—like your age, gender, or genes – you can reduce your risk of heart disease and heart failure in other ways.
Myth: There's Nothing You Can Do To Get Better After Being Diagnosed With Heart Failure.
Heart failure can be treated through a combination of medication, surgery, implanted devices, and lifestyle changes, says the NLM.
Lifestyle changes that improve quality of life with heart failure are similar to those that reduce your risk in the first place:
- Adopt healthy eating and drinking habits.
- Stop smoking.
- Manage your weight and cholesterol.
Myth: You Can't Tell If Your Heart Failure Is Getting Worse Until It's Too Late.
Warning signs appear before things get worse, so it's important to know your body and any telltale signs. Monitor your symptoms to identify potential problems before they become too serious, according to the NLM.
Make note of any changes to your:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
If you notice any abnormal changes, contact your physician.
Myth: Heart Failure Is A Death Sentence.
Because of advances in early diagnosis and treatment—as well as increased public awareness of symptoms–many people with heart disease are able to lead normal lives, says the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA).
A heart failure patient's outlook depends on a number of factors. Perhaps the most noticeable one is what the American Heart Association (AHA) calls functional capacity—that is, how a patient's body reacts to physical activity.
According to the AHA, functional capacity is measured on a scale of 1 to 4, from mild to severe symptoms.
A physician at the Penn Medicine Heart Failure Program
can help you get the best treatment for your condition.