Watch out for family history and other risk factors to diagnose and manage heart failure on time

Poor health is not caused by something we don’t have; it’s caused by disturbing something we already have been blessed with. Our day-to-day activities affect our health. Modern sedentary lifestyles and work styles coupled with deleterious dietary habits, avoidable stress to meet deadlines, lack of exercise, smoking, and alcohol will eventually add pressure on our health. Many of us slide towards hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. These lifestyle ailments, along with the family history of heart diseases in many cases, might lead to gradual weakening of the heart muscles, known as heart failure.


It is necessary to talk about heart failure because of an explosion in cases with a rise in mortality to more than thirty percent. “To identify, manage and treat heart failure, which affects a little over 1% of India’s population, mass awareness initiatives are crucial. Cardiology & Cardiovascular Sciences is a Centre of Excellence at Fortis Healthcare, and expert doctors at our facilities across the country offer treatments and care in line with international benchmarks. As knowledge partners in the Beat Heart Failure campaign, they have touched upon several minute aspects of heart failure – from medical management to surgical interventions, focusing on empowering people with easy-to-understand information.” Mr. Anil Vinayak, Group Chief Operating Officer, Fortis Healthcare.

Medical science has seen a revolution in offering treatment options for cardiac failure at every stage. Unfortunately, there is not adequate awareness on the same amongst masses. To fulfil the gap the Times of India launched the initiative called Beat Heart Failure, in partnership with Novartis, to alert and spread knowledge among the people about the genesis of heart failure, its signs, symptoms, risk factors, and its management. Doctors from different parts of the country have joined the movement to instil hope amongst people that heart failure is preventable, treatable, and reversible, if diagnosed timely. Continuing the endeavour, the leading doctors from Fortis Hospital, Chennai have joined to enlighten us about heart failure, its management and treatment options-

-Dr PL Saravanan: Interventional Cardiologist & ElectroPhysiologist

-Dr Govini Balasubramani: CTVS, Heart and Lung Transplant Surgeon

-Dr Pradeep G Nayar: Interventional Cardiologist

Dr Nayar kicked off the discussion by defining heart failure which is the gradual weakening of the heart resulting in its inability to pump blood efficiently as required to fulfil the metabolic needs of the human body. The heart’s pumping ability is compromised due to Coronary artery disease, which develops due to blocks in the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart, resulting in damage to the muscles of the heart. The risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity also lead the coronary artery disease.

There has been a change in the way doctors address the assessment of the patient with risk factors with no symptoms. Dr Nayar stated that in the times to come, doctors will examine the possibilities of developing heart failure in the person with risk factors. The cardiologists will educate and advise the patient to set a precautionary regime before cardiac failure sets in. Early detection is critical, and the patient must visit the doctor to observe some unusual symptoms.

In India, the concept of regular health check-ups is non-existent and risk factors are not appropriately addressed, unless one is aggressively observing signs and symptoms, but in such a scenario the situation can become grim. The prognosis of established heart failure is usually poor as the mortality rate is above thirty percent, if left untreated. Dr Sarvanana stressed on the early detection and preferred commencing the treatment before the onset of symptoms in a patient exhibiting risk factors, that is stage one of heart failure. Since Heart failure is a progressive disease, the rise can be slowed down, if managed early. Recounted by Dr Sarvanana, a middle-aged female presented in the outpatient department with a heart murmur. On examination, it was revealed that she is in the early stage of heart failure. If there were a delay in the management, the longevity and quality of life would have been gravely impacted.

Dr Govini emphasised on visiting a doctor when a person has risk factors or is in the early stage. Often, symptoms especially amongst diabetics, don’t develop, but investigations reveal the early stage of heart failure. The common symptoms of the disease are gradual increase in breathlessness that was not present earlier, chest pain, increasing fatigue, difficulty climbing stairs and swelling in the legs.

The symptoms develop slowly, and most of the time, people don’t consider it as symptoms but a part of life. The common risk factors for the development of cardiac diseases include a poor lifestyle such as sticking to our laptops, mobiles, indulgence in junk food, reliance on tobacco, smoking, and above all, stressful life. There has been considerable evidence to show the effect of diet. These predilections and the genetic predisposition of developing heart failure present a grave script of sliding towards heart failure, especially for the young. Stress management is vital, as it is also being increasingly recognized as a significant contributing factor towards heart failure.

Once heart failure sets in, it becomes difficult to manage. Doctors prefer to exhaust medical options before turning to surgical options. The emphasis is on addressing the route cause. There are many wonder drugs for the treatment of the heart, and these have been very effective in the treatment of heart failure, even at advanced stages.

Surgical options are resorted when nothing else works. Arrhythmias are managed with cardiac resynchronization therapy devices. The doctor recommends a ventricular assist device for the left or right ventricle damage. If the symptoms worsen and the early management options don’t work, then the chance for a heart transplant is suggested. Surgical options come at a prohibitive cost for common people.

Sticking to medication is of paramount importance. Self-management tips for a patient include restriction of fluid intake and salt consumption. It will be easier for the patient and the doctor to find a sudden weight gain by maintaining a fluid input and output chart. Restriction of fatty foods and an increase in daily exercise equitant to thirty minutes of brisk walking, will reduce the load on their heart. Other guidelines include exercise recommended by a physiotherapist, stress management such as talking to counsellor, family, and friends will help. Management of pre-existing comorbidities and regular follow-ups with the doctors is a must.

The cardiologists ended the discussion with the famous quote, “Prevention is better than cure.” Better habits, clean eating, and a positive attitude will slow down the disease process. Don’t start a diet with an expiration date, instead develop a healthy lifestyle that will last forever. People ignore mild symptoms and rush to doctors when the situation gets out of hand. Patients and caregivers would do well to focus on watching blood pressure, weight, stopping smoking, and always trusting your doctor.

Remember, heart failure isn’t about stopping. It’s about starting life in a new way. To know more about how to manage heart failure, visit

“The views and opinions expressed in the article by the panelists/experts are based on their independent professional judgement and are disseminated in public interest. These views should not be considered as a substitute for professional advice of a registered medical practitioner. The purpose of this article is not to promote any medical procedures or medication and/or recommend a certain doctor. For any specific health issues, please consult your registered medical practitioner. BCCL, its Affiliates and its group publications disclaim any liability for the accuracy or consequences flowing from adherence to their expert views.”

Disclaimer: This article has been produced on behalf of Beat Heart Failure by Mediawire team.






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