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What Causes Heart Failure, And Can It Be Prevented?

What causes heart failure?

Heart failure, otherwise known as congestive heart failure or CHF, is a heart condition that occurs when the heart cannot pump blood effectively, so the body doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood and nutrients. Heart failure can be caused by several health conditions, including:

How can heart failure be prevented?

The most effective way to prevent heart failure is to keep your heart healthy. For example, have a heart-healthy lifestyle. What does that mean? Eat a nutrient-rich, heart-friendly diet, keep moving and exercise regularly, don’t smoke, limit alcohol consumption, and find ways to manage stress. It’s also important to stay on top of your regular medical checkups and heart health screenings. This will help you address any concerns before they become difficult to manage.

If you already have health problems that put you at risk for heart failure, do what you can to control those problems. For example, if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, make sure you follow your treatment plan. If you have chest pain, have it checked by a doctor. If you have atherosclerosis, talk to your doctor about what treatment is best. If you have valve disease, understand your options and take steps to treat it.

Is heart failure more of a congenital problem or an acquired problem?

Heart failure can be caused by anything that weakens or damages the heart muscle, valves, electrical system, and other areas of the heart. These causes can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (due to lifestyle factors). Some examples of congenital heart failure causes are congenital valve disease, congenital heart disease, and electrical problems of the heart. While congenital heart defects are a cause of heart failure, the majority of cases of heart failure are acquired rather than congenital.

Limiting heart failure risks

To reduce your risk of developing heart failure, take some steps to change your lifestyle and manage your health.

  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit. Also avoid second-hand smoke and other tobacco.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans, and avoid or limit added salt, added sugar, high-fat foods, trans fats, red meat, and simple carbs.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day of the week. Talk to your doctor about what types of exercise are best for you.
  • Get up and move around. If you have a sedentary job, take frequent movement breaks throughout the day to get your blood pumping. You may also want to consider a standing desk.
  • If you’re overweight, lose weight. If you are at a healthy weight, maintain it.
  • Manage your health conditions. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high-cholesterol, or other health conditions, make sure you follow your doctor’s recommendations and take all medications as prescribed.
  • Manage stress. Learn how to cope with stress and take steps to reduce it if you can. Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can work well.

When should I start screening for heart failure?

There is no magic age that all heart screenings should take place. To help prevent all heart disease, it’s important to start in early adulthood. But if you’re not a young adult anymore, that’s okay. It’s not too late to start. The American Heart Association recommends that basic screens, such as body weight and blood pressure, should start at regular checkups around age 20. Your screening guidelines throughout your life will depend upon your risk factors. For example, if you have a cardiovascular condition, such as high blood pressure, or you have a family history of heart disease, you should likely be screened more frequently than if you’re young and healthy with few risk factors.

What kinds of heart screenings are available?

At Beaumont, we offer a seven for $70 program designed to identify your risk factors and recommend a course of action to help you improve your heart and vascular health. Results will be available to share with your doctor. Your doctor will likely also talk to you about the importance of regular exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking.

The screening includes seven tests:

  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Body mass index measurement
  • 12-lead Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Stroke screening/carotid artery ultrasound
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm ultrasound
  • Peripheral artery disease screening
  • Blood test

Your doctor will likely also talk to you about the importance of regular exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking.