A sound heart is the key to a sound life. The overall transformation in the past few decades in our surroundings has significantly altered our lifestyles. Human bodies are biological wonders that continue to adapt to such transformations without much retention. Yet, overburdening any mechanism, be it how our hearts pump to keep us alive, takes its tolls duly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year, cardiovascular diseases took the lives of an estimated 17.9 million people, which makes this disease the number 1 cause of global deaths, representing 31 percent of all death numbers. Which means it is high time we took heart failure more seriously and started acting for preventions.
When the pumping chambers or the ventricles of our heart become too weak or stiff, they cannot function in an equal rhythm. When our heartbeats become irregular, the heart struggles to meet the demand the body puts on it for pumping necessary blood. To meet the demand, the heart initially attempts to stretch itself so that more blood is pumped. It also attempts to increase muscle mass to pump more strongly and upsurges the average beat rate by pumping faster. These are the primary methods the heart applies to meet bodily requirements.
But a stressful heart will soon start to give away symptoms. Shortness of breath even after minor activities, constant fatigue, swelling in feet and ankles, persistent cough or wheezing with blood-phlegm, swelling of the abdomen, lack of appetite and an increased need to urinate at night are some of the early symptoms of a low-functioning heart. Heart attack, hypertension or high blood pressure, myocarditis or weak heart valves, cardiomyopathy or heart muscle damage and various other cardiovascular complications can be the root of heart failure. Even prolonged diabetes, sleep apnea, obesity and consumption of tobacco and alcohol can also cause heart failures. Heart failures can affect the heart's left, right or both sides. Each has its own adverse symptoms and are equally lethal. A deteriorating heart may also damage one's liver and kidney, even causing one to need dialysis.
A healthy lifestyle can be the best way to prevent or overcome heart failure. Regular physical activities, healthy diets, refraining from smoking or drinking, reducing mental stress are few of the ideal methods to make sure we don't require heart failure treatments. For the ones already, a victim, one of the most efficient ways of treatment is cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT).
Biventricular pacemaker devices are used under the CRT method to send electrical signals to the chambers of our heart. The signals are used to manipulate the heartbeats by controlling the ventricular contractions. Cardioverter defibrillators can even use electrical shocks to reorder an inconsistent pattern of heartbeats.
CRT is not for every patient with heart disease. It is not recommended for those with comparatively mild symptoms or diastolic heart failure. Above all, every technology-based physical support comes with the risk of device malfunctioning or infections. So, it is wiser to opt for changing our attitude towards life from an early age in order to avoid such risky and complicated medical procedures.
The writer is an Electrophysiology & Heart Failure Specialist working at Evercare Hospital, Dhaka, Bangladesh.