Bassem 2023.jpgWhile love may be in the air with Valentine’s Day this week, a leading doctor at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust has issued some timely advice about how to keep your heart healthy and why it can sometimes fail.

Dr Bassem Ibrahim, Lead of Heart Failure services at NCIC, said: “Heart failure is a common condition.  It affects about one per cent of the population.  It is estimated that there are 900,000 patients carrying this diagnosis in the UK.

“There are many causes of heart failure. Heart attacks top the list of these causes.  Other important causes are neglect in treating high blood pressure, some patients inherit defective genes causing ‘familial cardiomyopathies’, faulty heart valves, either blocked or leaky, putting a burden on the heart muscle, and probably a less known cause is the toxic effect of alcohol. The recommended limit of alcohol can be easily exceeded which results in a floppy and badly damaged heart.  Many drugs used to treat certain types of cancer can subtly be injurious to the heart muscle.”

Symptoms of heart failure usually develop gradually.

Dr Ibrahim added: “Shortness of breath at a level of exertion that one has been previously used to, may be misinterpreted as a sign of aging. Other common complaints are difficulty in lying flat because of breathlessness or waking during the night with a sensation of suffocation. Others develop ankle swelling or abdominal distention.

“Though there may be alternative explanations for all of these symptoms, it’s best to check with your doctor.   A clinical examination, and if needed, a blood test +/- scan can confirm or refute the diagnosis.”

There have been major advances in the treatment of heart failure in the last three decades.

Dr Ibrahim said: “Now heart failure is considered a ‘preventable and treatable condition.’  It is established by numerous research that the earlier the diagnosis and initiation of treatment the better the outlook.”

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