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For Your Health: Heart failure becoming more prevalent in Americans
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I recently treated a patient who described a long series of problems from the past year. They included weight gain/loss, leg swelling, shortness of breath when walking up stairs, "butterflies fluttering" in her chest and sometimes having to sleep in her recliner to breathe.

I had to tell her, these are all hallmark symptoms of heart failure.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is either unable to properly fill with blood or unable to pump blood to the rest of the body.

When this happens, you can become short of breath, extremely tired, have swelling in the legs or belly, develop a cough and/or be unable to lie flat to sleep.

Risk factors for heart failure are: high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, heart attack, irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation), thyroid disease, pregnancy, smoking and drug and alcohol abuse.

According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, more than 650,000 new cases of heart failure are diagnosed in the United States each year.

By 2030, one of every five Americans older than 65 will have heart failure, and it’s a costly disease. The total Medicare cost of heart failure care is more than $40 billion per year.

Heart failure can be prevented by eating a diet containing less than 2,000 mg of sodium, walking at least 30 minutes every day, taking your medications as ordered by your health care provider and going to regularly scheduled appointments with your health care provider.

It can also be managed with medications, daily weighings, following your health care provider’s advice, symptom management and lifestyle modifications.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center provides help and treatment for heart failure. If you have any questions, call 770-219-7466.

Registered nurse Eva Johnson is the heart failure disease manager at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

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