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Keep a close watch on heart failure symptoms

IF YOU have heart failure (HF) or pumapalyang puso, keep track of its symptoms.

HF is a serious condition in which the heart deteriorates and cannot pump adequate blood to completely meet the amount of oxygen needed by the body. The heart makes up for added strain by working harder. HF can worsen in very small stages, and many patients sometimes do not even notice: They think their situation is normal when actually it is not.  Eventually, your body gradually becomes less able to keep up.

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It is best to know the symptoms of HF and take note of any subtle changes in your body’s ability to recompense. Aside from the patient, the family members have to be aware of HF symptoms. Keep a tight watch on the signs that may indicate a need to call or see your doctor. Your doctor can prescribe new medicines and  will strongly recommend lifestyle changes that can help you feel better. If you notice anything new, or a sudden worsening of a current symptom, inform your doctor right away.

Warning signs

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According to the American Heart Association (AHA), these are the warning signs you need to check:

  • Shortness of breath and failure to perform your regular activities.
  • Fast heart beat. The loss of pumping ability can lead to palpitations, as though the heart is racing or throbbing.
  • Daily weight—weight gain of two or three pounds in a 24-hour period or more than 5 pounds in a week should be a cause for alarm. Watch your weight. Inform your health-care provider about these sudden changes and be specific with your numbers.
  • Any swelling due to fluid collection in the ankles, lower legs and feet.
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Confusion or impaired thinking—Changes in the makeup of your blood, such as the amount of sodium (too high) or oxygen (too little), can result in confusion or changes in your mental state. You may have some memory loss or have a worsening sadness or depression, which may be related to changes in your body’s ability to cope with HF. More often, these symptoms are too obvious not to be noticed by your family members, so better yet, ask them about these drastic changes in you.
  • Other factors—Loss of appetite, ability to sleep, oxygen use (if you have been prescribed oxygen by your doctor) and diuretic (“water pill”) use.

To help you keep track of symptoms, you may download the AHA Heart Failure Symptom Tracker through this link: www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_477328.pdf. You may also download the brochures “A Quick Guide to Living with Heart Failure” and “A Quick Guide to Caring for Someone with Heart Failure” on www.keepitpumping.com/tools-resources.

By keeping track of your symptoms and changes in your body, you are more likely to take action and make the necessary adjustments in your lifestyle and treatment plan. This will help you live a longer, fuller and healthier life.

Dr. Alex T. Junia, president of the Philippine Heart Association 2015-2016, completed his medical degree at Cebu Institute of Medicine and finished his Fellowship in Cardiology at the Philippine Heart Center. The PHA is an organization of cardiovascular specialists and lay members that ensure accessible, affordable and quality cardiovascular education and care for everyone. For more information, visit www.philheart.org.

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