In a cardiac insufficiency, also called heart failure, the heart is no longer able to pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body. The disease is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year. In many cases, hospitalization could be prevented.
Heart failure is one of the most common diseases in western industrialized nations. In this country, the number of people affected is estimated at two to three million. The disease is not curable, but it is treatable. However, many sufferers suffer from cardiac insufficiency. This could be prevented by certain measures.
As the German Heart Foundation explains in a recent report, a worsening of the heart failure is announced with symptoms such as a significant increase in weight, shortness of breath or even shortness of breath. According to the experts, the disease can take a dramatic course, including emergency hospitalization: around 465,000 patients are admitted to a hospital every year because their heart failure has derailed.
This is how a derailment announces itself
The causes are manifold, but in many cases a hospital stay can be prevented. “A cardiac decompensation, i.e. a derailment of the heart failure, is often the result of an additional event”, explains Prof. Dr. med. Thomas Voigtländer, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the German Heart Foundation. This could be cardiac arrhythmia, a sudden rise in blood pressure, or even infectious diseases such as influenza or COVID-19, adds the Medical Director of the Agaplesion Bethanien Hospital, Cardioangiologisches Centrum Bethanien (CCB) Frankfurt am Main. “Often, mistakes in taking medication are also the cause of a worsening of the disease,” the cardiologist explains.
There are several reasons why both flu and coronaviruses can be dangerous for heart patients. For one, these viruses do not remain exclusively in the respiratory tract, but spread throughout the body and can also attack the heart. For another, the lungs are particularly susceptible, especially in patients with heart failure.
“In the event of heart failure, blood can back up in the lungs due to the reduced pumping capacity,” says Voigtländer. For example, a worldwide study published in the journal “The Lancet Respiratory Medicine”, for which the COVID-19 courses of more than 10,000 patients in 920 hospitals were evaluated, showed that those with heart failure have a significantly higher risk of a severe course of the disease and had to be ventilated much more frequently than people without a previous heart condition.
To avoid a derailment of the heart failure in the first place and thus hospital admission, patients with heart failure should consistently take their medication and pay attention to possible warning signs. It is important, for example, that those affected regularly check their weight and measure their blood pressure to prevent blood pressure crises.
Because COVID-19 infection can lead to severe progressions in cardiac patients, flu vaccination is even more important in the time of the pandemic than before. This applies in particular to risk groups. “We urgently recommend that patients with cardiovascular diseases be vaccinated against influenza and pneumococcus,” says Voigtländer. To protect against infection with the coronavirus, the so-called AHA+L recommendations also apply, just like for healthy people:
Heart failure derails: How to protect yourself
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