Heart failure is now the number one cause of hospital admissions in the United States. It is increasing in incidence with the aging of our population. Heart failure includes two separate disorders that can affect heart muscle. The heart muscle is either thin and weak and has a hard time pumping (Systolic heart failure); or the heart muscle can get thick and stiff and has a hard time filling with blood (Diastolic heart failure). The exact cause of heart failure may not be completely known, but generally is thought to develop slowly over time in people who have uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, or are overweight. It can also happen quite suddenly, such as during a heart attack. This type of heart disease is diagnosed with an echocardiogram.

Heart failure causes the affected person to retain fluid. Excess fluid starts backing up into the legs, arms, belly, and even the lungs. A person starts to feel short of breath, gets tired easily, or gains weight for no apparent reason (fluid buildup). Prevention includes maintaining a healthy weight. Regular aerobic exercise and strength training not only helps overall energy and body, it also strengthens the heart muscle! Follow a heart healthy diet. Manage stress. If you have chronic illness, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, keep them under control. Many treatments exist once a heart failure diagnosis has been established. If you have concerns about your heart’s ability to function, please see your regular health care provider as soon as possible.

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