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Front Page » August 23, 2007 » Health Focus » Ama Says Despite its Ominous Name, Heart Failure can be F...
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Ama Says Despite its Ominous Name, Heart Failure can be Fought


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Though cancer is claiming more and more victims each year, heart disease remains the foremost cause of death in Americans. According to the American Heart Association, 70.1 million Americans suffer from some type of cardiovascular disease, with roughly 10 percent of those sufferers being victims of a heart attack and nearly 5 million of those suffering from congestive heart failure.

Perhaps the most difficult obstacle to overcome with respect to heart failure is making people know they have it. Despite the implied totality of its name, heart failure does not mean your heart just stops. Rather, heart failure gradually develops and taxes your heart to the point where it needs to work especially hard just to maintain normal function, such as pumping your blood. It is typically the result of a heart attack or an extended period of high blood pressure.

There are distinctive characteristics that act as indicators of heart failure. For instance, trouble breathing when resting or lying down, and waking up breathless in the middle of the night can be signs.

Another symptom not to take lightly is fatigue. Those who might be on the doorstep of heart failure tire more easily than is normal for someone their age and might experience edema, a swelling of the feet, ankles or legs. If you find yourself or a loved one to be tiring despite a lack of activity, consult a physician and ask for a cardiovascular examination.

Excessive coughing is also a telltale sign of heart failure. A hacking cough when lying in bed or a cough that produces ample and continuous mucus is a sign that heart failure might be setting in. While each of these symptoms might seem commonplace in the elderly, they all imply something worse than just getting old, and further attention is necessary if you or someone you love is exhibiting these symptoms.

Though heart failure is typically not recognized until its more advanced stages, there are a number of precautions one can take to limit one's risk of heart failure.

One such precaution is exercising at a rate and frequency prescribed by your doctor. Consult with a physician, as opposed to an athletic or personal trainer, and work with him or her to develop an appropriate routine.

Another thing to do is watch your weight. Large fluctuations in body weight can be extremely taxing on your heart, whether you're dropping pounds or gaining them. Maintaining a steady weight or, if you're trying to lose weight, dropping pounds gradually allows your heart to tackle a more predictable workload.

Limiting your intake of salt can also go a long way in reducing your risk for heart failure. Sodium has long been linked to high blood pressure, something that is a direct cause of heart failure.

It is wise to remember the prevalence of heart failure Though its name might imply fatality, there are a number of steps you can take to lower your risks of falling victim to heart failure. To learn more, visit the Heart Failure Society of America Web site at www.abouthf.org.


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