Heart Health

HOW TO PREVENT HEART ATTACK AND HEART FAILURE

HEART FAILURE (PUMP FAILURE)

When a person does not pass an examination, we say that he has failed. This essentially means that he has been unable to perform up to expectation. So also, we talk about organ failure when a body organ is unable to perform its function up to expectation. Thus we have heart failure, liver failure, renal failure, joint failure. We can even talk about brain failure!

WHAT IS HEART FAILURE?

The heart has failed when it is unable to perform, to fulfill the demands of the body. The heart thus fails to do its job, which is pumping blood throughout the body. Heart failure can be as a result of many heart problems. But it may also be due to too much blood for the heart to pump with resultant overloading of the circulation.

HOW DOES THE HEART FUNCTION AS A PUMP?

The heart together with the blood vessels constitutes the cardiovascular system. Analogy can be made to the water pump at home and the system of pipes of different calibres distributing blood to all parts of the body. The heart is made up of muscles that contract right from the time we are born and duly stop when we die. It is about the only organ in the body that works ceaselessly throughout our lifetime. The heart is divided into four chambers right atrium, right ventricle, left atrium, left ventricle. The blood coming back to the heart gets into the right atrium and is pumped into the right ventricle which in turn pumps out blood to the lungs and then back to the left atrium and finally into the left ventricle. From this very powerful muscular pump, blood is pumped out to all parts of the body through a very big pipe called aorta. From the aorta the blood flows through smaller arteries to all parts of the body and then collected into veins and back to the heart.

The chambers of the heart are linked by valves in either half of the heart. The average person has about five litres of blood, which circulates right around the body all in one minute. However when a person exercises, the heart speeds up and the heart may pump out up to 25to 30 litres in one minute!

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HEART FAILURE?

Probably the commonest cause is hypertension. Other causes include anaemia, diseases of the valves of the heart, heart attack, lung diseases. Sometimes, the heart pump causes failure because it is overloaded with too much body fluid in the same way a pump can fail if it has to do excessive work. If there is too much resistance to the blood flow it can result in an overworked heart, which can result in failure. Similar to a pump working against narrowing of the pipes with sludge. Another cause of heart failure is from a heart that is beating irregularly, (cardiac arrhythmia) or heart that is beating too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia).

WHAT IS HEART ATTACK?

Heart attack is a sudden, unexpected form of heart failure. It is due to the blocking of one or more of the blood vessels supplying the heart. Isn’t it ironic that the heart supplying blood to the body itself needs to have part of that blood supplied to itself? As a result of the lack of poor blood supply to the muscles of the heart, the muscles die. This is also called a ‘Coronary’ or myocardial infarction (heart muscle death).

Most times, the blood vessels of the heart become blocked by fat deposits called atheroma. These deposits prevent blood flow and oxygen to the heart. Oxygen in the blood is what the heart and all structures in the body need for existence. It is the ‘gas’ of life. The risk factors for a heart attack include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, diabetes, stress, lack of exercise.

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