What is Heart Failure?
Heart failure is a medical condition where the heart does not work as efficiently as it should. This means that your blood can't deliver enough oxygen and nourishment to your body to allow it to work normally. This can cause various symptoms such as fatigue in your muscles and a build up of fluid in your lungs and other parts of your body, such as your legs and abdomen.
Heart failure often develops because of another medical condition, such as coronary artery disease, a heart attack or high blood pressure, which has damaged or put extra workload on your heart.
Although it is called heart 'failure', this doesn't mean that your heart is about to stop working. It does mean that your heart is having difficulty working to meet the needs of your body, especially during activity.
How common is Heart Failure?
Heart failure is a very common condition and there are about 90 thousand people living with heart failure in Ireland today. It can develop at any age but becomes more common with increasing age. Around 1% of people under 65 years of age have heart failure, but 7% of 75-84 year olds have heart failure and this increases to 15% in people older than 85.
Heart Failure is one of the most common causes of hospitalisation in patients over 65 years of age. In 2008, there were more than 20,000 patients admitted with heart failure in Ireland, 90% of which were emergency admissions.
The burden of heart failure on individuals, their families and the health service is increasing due to our ageing population, better survival after heart attacks, and poorly controlled risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking.
How can I find out more about Heart Failure?
The European Society for Cardiology has developed an excellent website to help people understand heart failure: www.heartfailurematters.org. Many heart failure patients and their families in Ireland are finding this a very useful source of information. You can read about heart failure or simply listen to audio clips that cover all aspects of the condition.
Another useful source of information is the Irish Heart Foundation. It has produced a booklet for patients called ‘Living well with Heart Failure’. This can be downloaded at: http://www.irishheart.ie/iopen24/pub/patient_booklets/living_with_heart_failure.pdf
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