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Heart Failure: A Growing Problem
By Jennifer Wicks

Heart Failure is a major growing problem in the United States. It affects nearly 5.8 million people. 660,000 new patients are diagnosed with heart failure each year. The diagnosis of heart failure is widely recognized in the elderly population. This population is defined by patients reaching the age of 65. As our population in the United States continues to live longer and 65 is no longer considered elderly, what can we do to prevent heart failure?
Who is at risk for developing heart failure? There are different types of heart failure and the causes of heart failure determine the type. Both have preventable risks. One of the causes of heart failure is uncontrolled blood pressure (hypertension). Uncontrolled blood pressure is defined as readings consistently above 130/80. Elevated blood pressure is often untreated for many years because of a multitude of reasons. Unawareness of the problem and the long term complications of the problem is one reason. People often do not have symptoms with a gradual and sustained elevated blood pressure and do not seek regular evaluations by a healthcare provider. Another reason people often do not treat their blood pressure is for financial reasons. There are many affordable blood pressure medications on the market and medication assistance programs for those households who meet levels of lower income. Pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs that usually include all of their manufactured medications.
Another type of heart failure is caused by the effects of coronary artery disease (CAD). This occurs when there is a reduction of blood flow to the heart muscle from a build up of cholesterol (plaque). People who are at increased risk of developing coronary artery disease should be identified. These people may not have any symptoms currently but may have one or more of the preventable risks of developing CAD. Modifiable (treatable) behaviors to decrease the risk of developing heart failure from CAD, include smoking, abnormal blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity, unhealthy diet and avoidance of illicit drug use. Cholesterol levels in patients at high risk of developing coronary artery disease should be treated to the latest guideline recommendation.
The importance of incorporating the above measures in your daily life is demonstrated by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology publications and research evidence that the above measures improves survival, reduces the need for procedures or hospitalizations and improves quality of life overall. The key to prevention of long term problems is effectively managing your risk factors now before you develop symptoms. To better understand your risk and what you need to do to lower it, call your healthcare provider today.
Jennifer Wicks is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) who practices with Jefferson Cardiology Association in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Their practice is located in Jefferson Hills PA and their office is connected to Jefferson Regional Medical Center. For more information, call (412) 469-1500 or visit www.jeffersoncardiology.com

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