Doc Talk #107 – Heart Failure



Dr Dan and Jamieson talked about heart failure in this show.

We started with a bit of an anatomy lesson and an explanation of each side of the heart has its own circuit (although they are linked).

Heart failure can occur when the heart doesn’t pump as well as it should, or when the heart fails to relax properly.

The symptoms of heart failure depend on whether the left, right or both sides of the heart are affected: left sided heart failure tends to cause problems with breathing, especially when people lie flat, whereas right sided heart failure can cause leg swelling and fatigue.

One of the commonest causes of heart failure is when the heart muscle is damaged after a heart attack. Other causes include high blood pressure and excess alcohol, diabetes, obesity and smoking. Rarer causes include problems with the valves in the heart and genetic disorders.

Our treatments for heart failure have got much better over the last couple of decades. We have excellent medications such as the ACE-inhibitors which have helped to transform the outlook for people with heart failure.

The best treatment for heart failure is to avoid getting it in the first place: quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, losing weight if you are obese getting checked for high blood pressure, avoid illict drugs (such as cocaine) and have a healthy diet with sufficient physical activity.

One of the best (and simplest) ways of avoiding getting into trouble if you have a diagnosis of heart failure is to monitor your weight closely. Stepping on the scales once a day and check with your doctor if there is a significant fluctuation. Discuss with your doctor about when you should seek help – if your weight is going up, this can be a sign of fluid retention and may lead to breathing problems; if your weight is going down too much, then this can be a sign of dehydration and can cause low blood pressure and kidney issues.


(The awesome beating heart image is by DrJanaOfficial [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons)