India has been reeling under the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that are responsible for a major proportion of morbidity and mortality. The situation could get worse now, as people with NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are six times more likely to be hospitalised and 12 times more likely to die with severe coronavirus disease. Also Read - Coronavirus: 5 COVID-19 Symptoms That Won’t Seem to go

Dr Ashish Chauhan, Senior Consultant at Interventional Cardiology, Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad shares his views on the topic of risk of heart failure during winter. In India, among cardiovascular diseases, there is a surge in heart failure cases that can rise further during the winter season. The potential reason behind this is that the heart works harder with an increase in blood flow to keep the body warm during cold weather. The blood vessels constrict during winter so that the heart can concentrate on pumping blood to the brain and other organs. Drop-in temperature can also increase the risk of developing blood clots which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Also Read - Dragon Fruit Benefits: 5 Amazing Health Benefits of This Bright Pink Fruit

Heart failure is a disease that develops slowly with the gradual weakening of the heart muscle. The term ‘failure’ refers to the heart’s inability to pump blood to meet the needs of the body. Heart failure can cause inadequate blood flow to tissues and the kidneys leading to fatigue, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, water retention, and tissue swelling. It also enlarges the heart that interrupts the timing and coordination of the heartbeats causing more problems with the pumping function. Also Read - Colorectal Cancer: A Simple, Cheap Test Can Help Potentially Save Lives, Suggests Research

There are 2.6 crore patients with heart failure worldwide and 40 percent of these reside in India alone. Unfortunately, even when the disease is rampant in the country, awareness about its causes and treatment remains low. Many people do not undergo timely screening for heart failure and the ones who do, fail to get appropriate treatment.

The Need for Early Diagnosis

Early diagnosis is crucial for timely treatment which can help in managing symptoms. If you experience symptoms such as problems with breathing, heart palpitations, dizziness, fainting spells, difficulty concentrating, frequent trips to the bathroom, and coughing spells, consult a doctor at the earliest.

The doctor will start with a physical examination during which he will check the patient’s medical history, heart enlargement, abnormal sounds in the lungs, irregular heart sounds, swelling or tenderness of the liver, and water retention. In addition to this, blood tests, ECG test, x-rays, an electrocardiogram, and other tests will be recommended to diagnose heart failure.

In the last two decades interventional cardiology has evolved, and today we have advanced palliative care solutions that have revolutionized heart failure management.

Technologies Transforming Heart Care

Patients who experience increased complications such as clogged arteries and heart valve defects are recommended minimally invasive procedures using an advanced version of pacemakers like cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). CRT maintains the electrical abnormality responsible for heart failure and helps patients lead a normal life with reduced symptoms and need for hospitalization and prevent the disease from progressing. The device works efficiently for eight to 10 years.

Certain devices come with cardiac arrhythmia detection and are known as CRT-D. CRT-D helps to detect and stop abnormal heartbeats. Since heart failure patients are at an added risk of sudden cardiac death, risk assessment is imperative. Technologies like CRT-D constantly monitor the heart rhythms and have an in-built implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) that delivers shocks or electrical pulses to restore a normal heart rhythm. Such technologies aid patients to even monitor and manage their symptoms at home. Additionally, as CRT-D runs on batteries, scientists have now developed devices that have doubled the battery backup as compared to the previous ones, enabling the patients to use the same device for many years.

The choice of heart failure therapy can vary from one person to another. Hence, talking to the doctor to know about the best treatment option is imperative. There is no permanent cure for heart failure, however, symptoms can be managed through treatment options and by incorporating certain lifestyle changes.