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How to Prevent Heart Failure

The bad thing about heart failure is how much it makes a person dependent on regular doctor visits, medications, and blood tests, and worst of all; it is one of the diseases that drastically impact a person’s ability to enjoy their day-to-day tasks. Most of us can prevent heart failure which I’ll dive into here.

Imagine falling asleep and suddenly waking up feeling like you are drowning in the fluid accumulated in your lungs or going for a walk to your car and having to stop multiple times to catch your breath, unable to take another step.

Research shows that heart failure is preventable. The following are factors to consider. I understand that some situations may require medications to control because lifestyle changes alone may not suffice. But that’s an individual discussion everyone must consider having with a doctor they trust.

1. Controlling Blood Pressure

At 140 mm Hg systolic blood pressure, patients have double the risk of developing heart failure than those who are at 120. At 160 and above, it was a 4-fold increase compared to those without hypertension.

Diastolic blood pressure seems to have a higher risk of other conditions, such as atherosclerotic, but less so for heart failure.

2. Controlling Salt Intake

Salt intake has been a contentious topic in medicine. It’s rare, however, to find a physician who believes that any salt intake is safe. Clearing the extra salt out at some point may lead to mineral deficiencies, hypertension, liver disease, or kidney problems.

It’s hard to give anyone an exact sodium amount. I recommend my patients avoid eating processed or ultraprocessed food with added salt. Whenever possible, I prefer they prepare that dish themselves when craving something with salt.

3. Maintaining Good Cardiorespiratory Fitness

VO2 max is the preferred way scientists measure a person’s cardiorespiratory fitness. However, there are many ways to measure this aerobic endurance marker, and Dr. Attia has discussed this at length.

An excellent way to think about it is that the heart requires oxygen, and the higher our oxygen capacity is, the less likely tissue damage will occur if there is any strain on the heart.

4. Avoiding Visceral Fat

Visceral fat or central obesity is highly correlated with developing not just atherosclerotic disease but also heart disease. To prevent heart failure our body composition should involve minimal visceral or organ fat.

Studies consistently show that those with excess visceral fat have a 1.5 time (or 50% higher) risk of developing heart failure. This is the one metric we like to monitor and lower whenever possible.

5. Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

From insulin resistance to Type 2 Diabetes, any spectrum in metabolic dysfunction adds to the risk of developing heart failure. And fortunately, any improvement will have a significant protective effect.

The risk of developing heart failure from diabetes can be 2.5 times from someone’s baseline. This baseline, again, could be pretty low or relatively high. That’s the hard part – knowing what someone’s baseline risk is. Family history and current echocardiography can give us some clues.

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