Heart failure is a scary term and there are many misconceptions around it. First, it is not a sudden doom that is unpredictable. No, it is the result of unhealthy lifestyle patterns which along with psychological changes, that culminate in issues like high blood pressure, cholesterol, etc, and/ or injury to the heart muscle that reduces the efficiency of your heart. This results in poor oxygen supply and blood circulation and gradually adds on stress to the heart as it struggles to keep up with the demands of the body. A failing heart cannot pump blood efficiently. That’s when you are diagnosed with heart failure. Outcome? A slow and progressive decrease in your quality of life.
Is there anything you can do to keep your heart functioning well for longer?
Out of the long list of factors that put you at risk for heart failure, there are quite a few things that you could change to keep your heart healthy.1
Diabetes: Diabetes is considered the Pandora’s Box of illnesses because once you develop diabetes, it opens the door for multiple other disease conditions. People who have been diagnosed with diabetes generally have higher levels of lipids or cholesterol, leading to the deposition of cholesterol in your blood vessels. This, in turn, makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood.2 Your heart starts to lose out on efficiency. A recent publication from January 2019 says that people affected by diabetes are twice as prone to heart failure.3 You may ask, “how can I prevent this?” Well, diabetes can be prevented. Seek professional help if you think you might be at risk of diabetes.4 It’ll help keep Pandora’s box shut.
Obesity: Directly or indirectly, excess weight will hamper your heart’s workload eventually. According to the review published in November 2018, people who are at higher than average weight show signs of heart failure 10 years earlier than people at a healthy weight! Every 1 kg/m2 increase in BMI can increase your risk of heart failure by 5%5! This gives even more reasons for you to shed those extra kilos!
Eating too much salt: A bowl of crispy potato chips is everyone’s favourite. We don’t realise when we end up finishing the entire packet! The amount of salt taken in with those chips is downright dangerous. Salt has sodium. Excess sodium in the body means excess water retention in the body, which is going to build up around your heart, lungs and even give you swollen feet.6
Smoking: “Smoking kills” is something we read on every cigarette pack in the market and every advertisement. Smoking not only affects your lungs but can majorly impact your heart’s efficiency.1 So quit smoking today to delay the onset of heart failure.
Absence of Physical Activity: Most of us have sedentary jobs; we sit in front of a screen for hours at end. Our high paying jobs come with high-pressure deadlines and a higher risk of heart failure.1 As physical activity reduces, the waistline increases, leading to obesity and everything else that the rising weighing scale brings with it. So get up from your seat once every hour for 5-10 minutes at least, take a walk and keep your heart functioning longer.
You’d now be clear why everyone on your social media as well as doctors who keep endorsing an active lifestyle. It has been found that the age at which heart failure occurs in the Indian population is 10 years younger than in the western population.7 So, it’s time for us to sit up and take action. You obviously cannot change your age, gender, family history or genetics, but you can make a few simple changes to your lifestyle and improve your quality of life for a healthy heart!
- Congestive heart failure- are you at risk? [Internet]. [cited 2019 Jul 18]. Available from: https://www.crh.org/service-centers/heart-and-vascular-center/congestive-heart-failure-risks.
- Causes of heart failure [Internet]. 2019 [updated 2017 May 31; cited 2019 Jul 18]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/causes-and-risks-for-heart-failure/causes-of-heart-failure.
- Kenny HC, Abel ED. Heart failure in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Circ Res. 2019 Jan 04;124(1):121-141. doi:10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.311371.
- Preventing type 2 diabetes [Internet]. [updated 2016 Nov; cited 2019 Jul 18]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-type-2-diabetes.
- Csige I, Ujvárosy D, Szabó Z, Lőrincz I, Paragh G, Harangi M, Somodi S. The impact of obesity on the cardiovascular system. J Diabetes Res. 2018;2018:3407306. doi:10.1155/2018/3407306.
- Heart failure diet: Low sodium [Internet]. [updated 2019 May 01; cited 2019 Jul 18]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17072-heart-failure-diet-low-sodium.
- Guha S, Harikrishnan S, Ray S, Sethi R, Ramakrishnan S, Banerjee S, et al. CSI position statement on management of heart failure in India. Indian Heart J. 2018 Jul;70(Suppl 1):S1-S72. doi:10.1016/j.ihj.2018.05.003.