- Heart failure develops gradually
- Heart attacks occur suddenly
- Both heart failure and heart attack can be fatal
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been an alarming increase over the past two decades in the prevalence of CHD (Coronary Heart Disease) and cardiovascular mortality in India. High cholesterol, obesity, drug use and an overall sedentary lifestyle are some of primary risk factors of heart diseases. Heart diseases such as heart defects, valvular heart disease, heart infections or cardiomyopathy are also steadily rising. These conditions can result in heart failure and weaken the pumping ability of the heart muscle. Low red blood cell count, an overactive thyroid gland and abnormal heart rhythm can indicate an underlying heart problem.
Difference between a heart failure and heart attack - Fatality related to both
Heart failure and heart attack are two different types of heart diseases. Heart attacks happen suddenly when an artery connected to the heart is blocked and cuts off the blood flow. This causes the oxygen supply to stop, leading to degeneration of the heart muscles. Heart failure, on the other hand, develops gradually. In this case, the heart muscle becomes weaker and has trouble pumping blood to the rest of the body. This is a chronic condition and it gradually gets worse. However, medications and therapy can help a patient live longer and better with it. Both heart failure and heart attack can be fatal depending on the severity of the condition.
Tips for management
Making simple changes to your lifestyle can help relieve symptoms of heart failure and prevent the disease from worsening. Precautionary measures such as monitoring your weight, leading an active life, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet and avoiding stress can go a long way keeping your heart healthy.
While in the initial stages of heart failure, lifestyle changes along with medication can help manage the condition, in case of advanced heart failure, treatment options such an LVAD procedure or a heart transplant along with therapy are necessary for the patient. An LVAD (left ventricular assist device) helps the left ventricle (main pumping chamber of the heart) pump blood to the rest of the body. It is a feasible and safe option for management of the condition.
Frequently asked questions for treatment of heart failure
What has the success rate of these LVAD devices been in comparison to heart transplant? Are there enough trained experts in the country to take this therapy further?
An LVAD is a feasible, safe and accessible option for patients in the advanced stage of heart failure. And due to persistent shortage of donors, LVADs can be used as both bridge to transplant and as destination therapy. It is also an option for patients who are not eligible for a heart transplant or are unable to undergo the same owing to other factors. An LVAD also requires fewer consultations post treatment compared to a heart transplant. Further, a study conducted by the NCBI has shown that there are no differences between a heart transplant and LVAD for patients with regards to late mortality.
How can one improve their lifestyle through this treatment? What are the things one must practice post treatment to extract the most benefits?
An LVAD device helps a patient lead a more active life. It increases the blood flow to the body, improves the function of the kidneys, liver, brain and other organs. It also impacts the patient's strength and ability to participate in activities such as cardiac rehabilitation. Post treatment, a patient can continue following the precautions suggested above to manage heart failure. They must also seek medical consultations with their doctor and stay alert for any symptoms.
Case study: To understand the effectiveness and impact of this treatment, we must have a look at a few stories. Mr Narayanan was a patient in his 60's who has been a heart patient since 2007. When he was diagnosed with the condition, he underwent an angioplasty procedure. However, his condition started worsening only soon after. After 3 to 4 years, his condition kept progressing which led to severe heart failure. The doctors shared with Mr Narayanan that he had two options: either he could opt for an LVAD machine implanted or a heart transplant. Sadly, due to the shortage of heart donors in the country, that option was not one Mr Narayanan could consider. His family and him then were introduced to a patient with a similar diagnosis as him. They shared how the LVAD machine had impacted their lives, they showed them that now they could do everything that they had lost the ability to do, such as drive a car and Mr Narayanan made his decision right after this conversation. He underwent this procedure shortly after, where the device was then surgically implanted to his heart. Now, thanks to the device, Mr Narayanan can peacefully enjoy his life. Ever since the surgery, he has gone on multiple official and recreational trips.
(Dr K R Balakrishnan, Chairman - Cardiac Sciences Director - Institute of Heart and Lung Transplant And Mechanical Circulatory Support, MGM Healthcare)
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