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Heart failure vs heart attack; know the difference from experts

People may confuse between the conditions heart failure and heart attack and use them interchangeably, but they are separate heart conditions. In fact, having a heart attack is a risk factor for heart failure and one must follow all precautions post a heart attack to avoid the latter. The burden of heart failure is rapidly rising across the globe and an estimated 26 million heart failure cases are reported worldwide with India alone having around 8 to 10 million patients.

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Despite the condition affecting a large segment of the population, there is low awareness of heart failure in the country owing to several misconceptions including heart failure being the same as heart attack. This Heart Failure Awareness month, experts talk about heart failure and the need to raise awareness about the condition.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart gradually weakens and is unable to pump enough blood. However, heart failure is not the end of the road. Although a serious condition, it can be effectively managed with the right treatment and regular cardiologist consultations.

Dr. Dilip Kumar, Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist & Electrophysiologist, Medica Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Kolkata says, “At our hospital, we have witnessed at least 20% of patients at various phases of heart failure on a weekly basis. Also, most heart failure patients are admitted to the hospital at an advanced stage of the disease. Therefore, it is important to manage heart failure better by continuous treatment and by following treatment schedule sincerely and implement holistic lifestyle changes in your overall life.”

“Heart failure and heart attack are both heart diseases, but they are not the same. Most heart attacks are a sudden event. When the blood supply to the heart stops due to clotting in the coronary artery, the heart muscles begin to die due to lack of oxygenated blood reaching the muscles. Whereas heart failure is more gradual. Due to the inefficient ability of the heart to pump blood because of the weakening and dilatation of the heart chambers, it is unable to meet the needs of organs around the body,” explains Dr Kumar.

In fact, 1 out of every 4 people who suffer a heart attack eventually develop heart failure within four years, making heart attack a major risk factor for heart failure.

Managing heart failure

With recent advances in medicines, heart failure patients can effectively manage their condition, along with some positive lifestyle modifications like – reducing fluid intake, controlling salt intake, maintaining a healthy diet, smoking cessation, limiting alcohol consumption, and incorporating moderate physical activity in one’s daily routine.

“In India, there is a rising incidence of smoking, especially in the younger populations. Over the years, this affects overall health, and can lead to various cardiovascular conditions including heart failure. However, heart failure can be managed and there are a number of options to treat heart failure as per its severity status. We have observed remarkable improvement in heart failure patients who adhere to treatment schedules, adopt a healthy lifestyle, and most importantly quit smoking. Effective heart failure management with regular treatment is a way to reduce mortality, save future hospitalization costs, and enhance the quality of a patient’s life,” says Dr. Abraham Oomman, Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.

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