Health Conditions / Cardiovascular Health

Why High Blood Pressure Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Failure

Why High Blood Pressure Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Failure

We’ve all been there: The nurse places a blood pressure cuff around your upper arm, squeezes that little bulb that makes the cuff inflate, and voilà—you get a reading. A normal blood pressure measurement is less than 120/80 mmHg; it’s considered elevated when it’s greater than 130/81. Doctors make a big fuss about this number because high blood pressure, or hypertension, can set the stage for various forms of heart disease, including heart failure.Blood pressure (BP) refers to the pressure of circulating blood against the walls of your blood vessels, like your veins and arteries. BP is broken down into two readings: the pressure when the ventricles pump blood out of the heart (systolic pressure) and the pressure between heartbeats when the heart is filling with blood (diastolic pressure). High blood pressure is extremely common. In fact, about half of American adults are saddled with this condition and only about one in four have it under control. As if that isn’t bad enough, more than 670,000 deaths in the United States in 2020 had hypertension as a “primary or contributing cause,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).The good news: There are many ways to get high blood pressure back into a normal range. Here’s what you need to know about the connection between high BP and heart failure and what you can do to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.What causes high blood pressure?For many people, there’s no identifiable cause of high blood pressure, which is known as primary hypertension, per the Mayo Clinic. But there are some known factors that increase a person’s risk of developing it.Aging is a big one: “It’s very common as we get older for the [blood] vessels to get thicker,” Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, FACC, the Gerald S. Berenson Endowed Chair in preventive cardiology and a professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, tells SELF. When this happens, the vessels become more rigid and don’t expand as they should when blood flows through them, he explains.There are so many other things that can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure over time, including your diet, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol excessively, tobacco use, stress or anxiety, and various chronic conditions—including pregnancy, diabetes, and sleep apnea, among others. When high blood pressure is caused by an underlying condition or medication, it’s known as secondary hypertension. Hypertension also tends to run in families and disproportionately impacts Black people, who also face a higher risk of heart failure due to various systemic barriers.What’s the connection between high blood pressure and heart failure?Heart failure develops when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body with what it needs. Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to the arteries and muscle that affect the heart’s pumping powers, potentially leading to failure.With chronic high blood pressure, the cells inside the arteries, which carry vital oxygenated blood away from the heart, become damaged. This makes it difficult for the proper amount of blood to circulate, which can lead to chest pain, irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), heart attack, and heart failure, per the CDC.

6 Ways Constant Anger Can Hurt Your Health Long-Term

6 Ways Constant Anger Can Hurt Your Health Long-Term

Here’s what you should know about the many ways anger can impact your body in the long run, and what to do if you’re concerned about how it might be taking a toll on your health. 1. Heightened inflammation A growing body of research suggests chronic stress, as well as the negative emotions associated with it, is strongly linked to higher levels of inflammation in the body and dysfunctional immune system responses. Your immune system is designed to attack potential threats to your body with inflammatory cells, Dr. Duijndam explains. “With chronic stress, including anger, these markers of inflammation increase as well.” So even if you don’t have, say, an infection brewing, these inflammatory cells may start to get rowdy and go after healthy cells instead if you’re a person who deals with lots of anger, she says. That, in turn, can set the stage for various health issues, especially as you age. For example, a 2019 study that followed 226 older adults for one week found that those who had higher levels of self-reported anger were more likely to have higher levels of inflammation and a higher risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and even certain cancers. On top of that, constantly feeling rage-y can also impact your everyday habits, some of which may lead to further inflammation, or simply damage your health in other ways. “The significant confound we have in any of this research is that people who are chronically angry tend to engage in lots of unhealthy behaviors,” Dr. Martin says, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating or loading up on food that isn’t as nutritious as it could be. “Those unhealthy behaviors will have an impact too,” he stresses.2. Heart disease“The bulk of the evidence that we have on the health consequences of anger really has to do with the heart and [the rest of the] cardiovascular system, and we’ve known that for decades,” Dr. Martin says. Try to do a quick body scan the next time your blood starts to boil—that is, take a moment to notice how the various parts of your body feel, one by one—and it won’t be hard to understand why anger can do a number on your heart. “When you keep ruminating in a state of anger, it leads to poor cardiovascular recovery,” says Dr. Duijndam. Again, that’s because “it keeps you in a state of stress.” Anger can spike your blood pressure and heart rate, two factors that place immense pressure on your heart muscle and therefore heighten the risk of chronic hypertension. An influx of stress hormones can also boost your blood sugar levels and blood fatty acid levels, which can damage blood vessels and lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, respectively. That’s one reason why regularly getting and staying angry could potentially play a role in conditions like cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 3. Reduced lung functionQuick and shallow breathing is one of the first physical effects anger triggers for many people. “When we need to ‘fight or flight’ from a situation that’s threatening, it makes sense,” Dr. Duijndam says. It’s your body’s way of trying to supply more oxygen to areas it perceives as essential, like the brain and muscles. It follows, then, that strong emotions like anger are a common trigger for asthma attacks in those who are susceptible. 

Al Roker Hospitalized for Multiple Blood Clots Amid ‘Today’ Absence

Al Roker Hospitalized for Multiple Blood Clots Amid ‘Today’ Absence

Today show weatherman Al Roker shared an update on his health with his Instagram followers Friday morning. He posted a picture of a bouquet of flowers and wrote, “So many of you have been thoughtfully asking where I’ve been. Last week I was admitted to the hospital with a blood clot in my leg, which sent some clots to my lungs.”Roker, 68, hasn’t appeared on the Today show in two weeks, People reports. He explained on Instagram that it took his care team some time to figure out exactly what was going on: “After some medical whack-a-mole, I am so fortunate to be getting terrific medical care and on the way to recovery,” he wrote.Instagram contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.Roker has a history of being vocal about his health: In 2020, he shared he’d been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, for which he underwent surgery. Earlier this year, he also talked about the 20th anniversary of his gastric bypass surgery on Instagram, writing: “I have setbacks and struggle every day, but I never forget how far I’ve come.” So, it’s not surprising that he decided to be transparent about his absence from the show.When a blood clot breaks loose and creates a sudden blockage in the lungs, it’s called a pulmonary embolism (PE), according to the US National Library of Medicine (NLM). This often happens the way Roker said it did for him: A clot that originally formed in another part of the body, usually in the leg, travels to the lungs through the bloodstream.A PE can damage the lungs or other organs and can be life-threatening, particularly if multiple clots travel to the lungs or if the clot is especially large. While a PE can happen to anyone, certain people face a higher risk, including those who have been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, as well as people who recently had surgery. A broken hip or leg bone—or other injury or physical trauma—can also boost your risk of a PE, as can not moving for a long period of time (say, during a really long flight), pregnancy and childbirth, being older than 40, or having a higher weight, per the NLM.Many people who develop a pulmonary embolism don’t have symptoms, but it’s possible to experience shortness of breath and chest pain or cough up blood. If you notice these symptoms and they’re not typical for you, you should see a doctor as soon as you can since a pulmonary embolism needs to be treated quickly. Depending on the severity of the clot and your health history, you may need a combination of medications or procedures to break up the clot and hopefully stop new ones from forming. Roker thanked his followers for their support on Instagram, but didn’t say when Today fans can expect him back on the show, writing: “Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers and hope to see you soon.”Related:

Here’s How to Stay Cool and Safe in Extreme Heat

Here’s How to Stay Cool and Safe in Extreme Heat

And it’s really hard to get reasonably cool without A.C., especially when the weather becomes this stifling. Air conditioning, in addition to cooling your environment, helps take moisture out of the air, Dr. Pryor says. As a result, it supports your body in crucial temperature regulation. “We’re one of the few species on Earth that will give up body water via sweating,” he explains. “When we sweat in a dry environment, it’s more likely to evaporate and take the heat with it. But when we sweat in a humid environment, it’s harder to cool off.”Because humidity is a factor in your body’s ability to cool itself down, it’s important to “pay attention to the heat index—a measure of the ambient temperature and humidity,” Mark Conroy, MD, emergency medicine and sports medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. “For example, if the air temperature is 100 degrees and the relative humidity is 55%, the heat index will be 124 degrees,” the NWS notes. You should be cautious when the heat index hits 80 degrees; 90 degrees put you in “extreme caution” territory; and anything above 103 degrees is a danger zone.There are other factors to be aware of, too. While “shade is helpful to reduce the additional temperature added by direct sunlight” it “does not lower the environmental temperature or humidity,” Lewis Nelson, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells SELF. Flipping on a fan creates a breeze, yes, but it “simply moves hot and humid air past your skin” and won’t help your body in the way it needs during extreme heat, Dr. Nelson says. In fact, the American Red Cross and Environmental Protection Agency note that using a fan may cause your body to gain heat once the indoor temperature reaches somewhere between 95 to 99 degrees, or above your typical body temperature.If you don’t have air conditioning and your area is in a heat wave, you may need to consider relocating for a bit to stay safe, Dr. Pryor says. That could mean temporarily shacking up with relatives or friends or visiting a community cooling center if they’re available near you. “Your home can become a sauna without air conditioning in a heat wave,” Dr. Pryor stresses.Another pro tip: “A trip to the library, grocery store, local pub, or movie theater can be life-saving, especially if it is not cooling off at night,” William Roberts, MD, director of the sports medicine program at the University of Minnesota Medical School, tells SELF. Because heat-related illness can happen due to heat exposure over time, getting these breaks from high temps can help lower your risk of getting sick, he explains.What are some other safety tips to help you stay cool in the heat?Getting into an air-conditioned space during extreme heat is the best way of protecting yourself against heat-related illness, Dr. Pryor says. But there are a few additional things you can do to try to minimize your risk if you’re not able to be in air conditioning at any given moment.Choose your clothing carefully.Go for lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothes (something like a cotton or linen shirt). Heavy, form-fitting clothing obviously won’t feel great when your skin desperately needs to breathe. Meanwhile, dark-colored clothes actually absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays and can make you feel hotter, Dr. Pryor says.Skip the electric fan when it’s really hot.Remember, this is especially important when the indoor air temperature is tipping over 95 degrees. Using a fan could cause your body to gain heat once the indoor thermostat tips near this number. At this point, it’s important to seek out a space that provides A.C. if you can.Focus on staying hydrated. Dr. Pryor says it’s tough to give a specific water intake recommendation since each person loses water via sweat in different amounts at different rates. At baseline, though, women should generally strive to have 11.5 cups of fluids a day and men should aim for 15.5 cups, per the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Beyond that, Dr. Pryor recommends paying attention to your urine. If it’s the color of lemonade or lighter, you’re good. If it’s the color of apple juice or darker, you probably need to drink more water. Another tip, per Dr. Conroy: Take it easy on alcohol and caffeinated drinks, as both can contribute to dehydration.Shut out the sun.If you don’t have shades or curtains, it’s not too late to invest. Natural light is a summertime perk, but curtains can help “block solar radiation from the sun from heating the air inside your home, effectively keeping your abode cooler,” Dr. Pryor says. The exact type you use is “unlikely” to make a significant difference, he adds, so use whatever works best for your home and budget.Rethink your dinner menu. Your stove and oven give off a lot of heat and can make your space even steamier. Instead, if you’re able to, consider making a meal that requires no heat, like one of these no-cook dinners.Limit your time outdoors.If you really want to venture outside, aim to do so when the day is at its coolest, like early in the morning (Dr. Pryor’s recommended time) or once the sun starts to set.Cut down on strenuous exercise.“Exercise is okay if you know how to reduce the time and intensity of the workout,” Dr. Roberts says. So, if you typically run three miles, you might instead run one or two during a cooler time of the day, have water with you or nearby, and take breaks to check in on how your body feels.Protect yourself from U.V. rays.When you’re outside, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 will help keep your skin safe from sunburn and heat rash, both of which can make your body feel hotter. (Don’t forget to reapply every two hours if you’re cooling off at the pool or at the beach!)Take a cool shower or bath.This kind of has an air conditioning effect, Dr. Pryor explains. Cool water helps lower your body temperature quickly—and feels great. This is also an important tip to keep in mind if you believe you or someone near you is dealing with a heat stroke situation, which is the most serious heat-related illness, the CDC says. In this scenario, a person’s body temperature will skyrocket and they may stop sweating altogether, in addition to the various symptoms mentioned above, like a fast pulse and dizziness or confusion. If you’re showing signs of heat-related illness or your symptoms are getting worse, Dr. Pryor says it’s time to call 911 or head to the E.R.Time is critical here: When a person is in this state, they need to take some crucial steps while waiting for help to arrive. Unneeded clothing should be removed, and they should get in a cool tub of water or in a cool shower, spray themselves down with a garden hose, mist themselves with cold water, or place some ice packs or cold, wet towels on their body—whatever method is nearby and helpful in aggressively lowering their body temperature. This is the situation you should strive to avoid when a heat wave hits. The key thing to remember is “staying within your heat tolerance and not taking on new activities when it is really hot,” Dr. Roberts says. “If you feel overheated, stop and find a cool spot to rest.”Related:

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

The majority of us don’t purposefully eat plastic, but that doesn’t mean we’re not consuming it every day. Microplastics, which are tiny plastic fragments, are everywhere—including inside of our bodies, according to mounting research. For the first time, researchers found that 17 out of 22 people had microplastics originating from common products in their blood, according to a May 2021 paper published in the journal Environment International1.“This is the first study to identify plastics that we know are in containers, plastic bottles, clothing, and other products that we use, inside of people,” Andrea De Vizcaya-Ruiz, PhD, an associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at the University of California Irvine, tells SELF. The two most common types of plastic found in the study were polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make plastic water bottles and clothing fibers, and polystyrene, which is found in food packaging, disposable utensils, and straws.In March 2022, researchers published a paper with another original discovery: 11 out of 13 people had microplastics in their lungs, according to the study published in The Science of the Total Environment2. Numerous other studies support that we’re regularly consuming plastic, Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, a medical toxicologist at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center, tells SELF. “Microplastics have been found in human saliva, scalp hair, and feces, suggesting that we are all likely exposed to these plastic fragments on a regular basis,” she says.Researchers are still exploring what this means for human health, but SELF talked to experts about what we do know.What are microplastics?Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic, less than 5 mm long, that are created in two ways. Primary microplastics3 are manufactured to make things like microfibers4, which are found in synthetic fabrics, or plastic microbeads, which are in some cosmetics. Secondary microplastics are formed after breaking off from larger plastic products like water bottles, car parts, and product packaging.Biodegradable items such as a banana naturally break down until they finally dissolve. But many plastics never decompose completely. They get smaller and smaller over time, but the pieces remain in our environments as pollution for hundreds of years, resulting in secondary microplastics, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says.Ok, but why are microplastics inside our bodies?Microplastics can be found in our water, air, food, and soil, so they’re unavoidable.“When humans consume food, drink water, or breathe air that is contaminated with microplastics, the plastic fragments can enter the body,” Dr. Johnson-Arbor says. Some estimates show that people in the U.S. consume and breathe in between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic fragments each year5, according to Dr. Johnson-Arbor.But how exactly do these plastics get into our blood? After consuming food or water containing microplastics, researchers suspect those tiny particles make their way to the gut, through the intestinal membrane, and into the bloodstream, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says. Something similar may happen when microplastics enter the bloodstream after being inhaled and passing through the membrane of the lungs.How are microplastics affecting human health?Plastic may be ubiquitous now, but it’s only been widely used for the past 70 years or so6, meaning there aren’t a lot of studies examining what types of plastics may affect human health and in what quantities.

What to Know About the New Study Linking Marijuana Use to Cardiovascular Disease

What to Know About the New Study Linking Marijuana Use to Cardiovascular Disease

Frequent, high-dose marijuana may have an impact on your heart health, according to a new study. The researchers behind the new report, published last week in the journal Cell, relied on information from a database in the United Kingdom called UK Biobank and found that cannabis was a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.At first glance, the research might seem to run counter to recent policy changes, as more and more states legalize marijuana, deeming it a safe substance. But the key here is recognizing it’s worrisome if you’re consuming high-dose marijuana frequently, Joseph Wu, director of Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and an author of the study, tells SELF. “If the patient is taking medical marijuana, or recreational, at a reasonable dose, it’s fine,” Dr. Wu says. He added that high-potency marijuana has become more popular in recent years, with vendors selling high-potency edibles and joints. “In the old days, one joint had 5% THC, [but now] vendors are coming out with more and more potent joints. One joint can have 80% THC.” This is when marijuana can cause heart health problems, Dr. Wu explains, adding that, for this reason, you should make sure you’re buying marijuana from a licensed vendor.Also worth noting: While the researchers did rely on human data from UK Biobank, they also ran tests on mice to try to find out why, exactly, marijuana affects heart health. These tests concluded that marijuana exposure could cause plaque buildup in mice–the same way a high-fat diet can cause plaque buildup and lead to heart problems, Dr. Wu says. In fact, he explains, they tested two sets of mice: One set received a high-fat diet and marijuana, while the other received a high-fat diet and no marijuana. The plaque buildup was worse in the mice that received a high-fat diet and were also given marijuana. Importantly, though, we don’t yet know the ramifications of this research for humans. “The part of the new study that was done on mice wouldn’t necessarily translate to humans,” Silvia S. Martins, MD, PhD, director of the Substance Use Epidemiology Unit at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, tells SELF.In addition to confirming the cardiovascular dangers associated with high-dose marijuana use, the study authors wanted to find out if a supplement known as genistein, a soybean derivative, could mitigate those risks. In mice, it did, Dr. Wu says. He explained that, pending further study, the supplement could be recommended for patients who use very potent marijuana frequently. “Genistein could potentially be taken as a supplement to mitigate the inflammation,” he says. Genistein wouldn’t block the high, he adds, but could prevent plaque buildup. “It doesn’t block the psychedelic effect of THC,” Dr. Wu says.That said, if your marijuana intake is so high that it is posing a threat to your health, your provider might first recommend decreasing your intake–before suggesting a supplement. Though genistein could prove helpful for patients who don’t want to consume less marijuana, Dr. Wu adds.The takeaway, Dr. Wu explains, is that moderation is crucial. “The public has this perception that marijuana is completely safe,” Dr. Wu says. “It’s just like anything else: It’s just a matter of how much you do it.”Related:

10 Symptoms of Heart Failure That Can Be Easy to Miss

10 Symptoms of Heart Failure That Can Be Easy to Miss

The fluid build-up can also cause swelling in your abdomen, which Dr. Solanki says is usually a sign that the right side of your heart is having trouble.5. Nausea and lack of appetiteWhen your abdomen gets swollen from excess fluid, it makes it tough to have much of an appetite. “Many people with this heart failure symptom are not able to eat much and may have nausea,” Dr. Wald says.6. A rapid or irregular heartbeatAs heart failure progresses, the organ often tries to overcompensate by beating faster to increase circulation in the rest of your body. “People may start feeling heart palpitations or irregular beats,” Dr. Solanki confirms.7. Constant coughing or wheezingThis is also due to fluid and blood build-up in your lungs, Dr. Solanki says. Coughing up pink-hued mucus due to blood, in particular, is often a sign that your heart failure has progressed to a more severe, advanced stage.28. Very fast, unexplained weight gainHere’s yet another sign of fluid build-up in your body. “If you see more than a two-pound weight gain in a 24-hour period, that’s a potential sign of an acute heart failure issue,” Jennifer Wong, M.D., cardiologist and medical director of Non-Invasive Cardiology at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SELF.9. Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertnessPeople with severe heart failure may not be receiving enough blood flow to the brain, Dr. Wald says. As a result, your brain doesn’t get the sufficient oxygen it needs to function well, leading to problems with staying alert and focused. At this point, you may have low levels of sodium in your blood, and that can lead to confusion in some people, per the AHA.10. Chest pain“When your heart is pumping rapidly, but your upper-body circulation is not able to keep up, you can start developing chest pains,” Dr. Solanki says. What that pain feels like varies from person to person, but it can range from mild discomfort to a squeezing sensation to sharp, burning pain. Chest pain can also signal coronary artery disease linked to heart failure, a condition in which your arteries become very narrow or completely blocked, often leading to a heart attack, per the CDC.Back to topHow to use “FACES” to remember the symptoms of heart failureFACES is an easy mnemonic device and a quick way to remember some of the most common signs of heart failure:3FatigueActivities limitedChest congestionEdema or ankle swellingShortness of breathBack to topHow is heart failure diagnosed?First, your doctor will go through your medical history to identify any potential heart failure risk factors. Then, they’ll do a physical exam to listen to your lungs for signs of fluid build-up and your heart for specific noises that can be indicative of heart failure.After that, there are a slew of potential tests your doctor may recommend if they suspect you have heart failure symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic:

Another Peloton Heart Attack Plot Line, Another Reminder Cardio Is Good for You

Another Peloton Heart Attack Plot Line, Another Reminder Cardio Is Good for You

Peloton is having a tough go of things. After Mr. Big (spoiler alert) was killed in a Peloton-induced heart attack in the new Sex and the City reboot, yet another show has used a Peloton heart attack plot line. Cardio just can’t get a break. Billions, a Showtime drama that follows the dubious financial maneuverings of hedge fund managers, just became the second show to prominently feature a character having a heart attack immediately after a Peloton ride. In the season premiere on Sunday, Wags (played by actor David Costabile) starts having chest pain immediately after his Peloton workout. Luckily, unlike Big, he survives. The scene was written and filmed before the now-infamous And Just Like That… plot line aired, the producers told the New York Times, but that didn’t stop them from nodding to the bizarrely parallel Peloton heart attack plots. “I’m not going out like Mr. Big,” Wags says triumphantly after returning to work, in a line added in post-production, per the Times.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes of heart-pumping, moderate-intensity cardio every week to stay healthy. So, after the second fictional character on a major show suffered a heart attack immediately after exercising, Peloton responded with reminder that exercise is good for cardiovascular health. “We get why these fictional TV shows would want to include a brand that people love to talk about, but Showtime’s use of Peloton’s Bike+ and reference to a Peloton Instructor was not a brand, product, or instructor placement, and we did not agree for our brand and IP to be used on this show or provide any equipment,” according to a statement provided to Fox Business. “As referenced by the show itself, there are strong benefits of cardio-vascular exercise to help people lead long, happy lives.”It’s no wonder the company wants to set the record on cardio straight. After the And Just Like That… scene, Peloton’s stock dropped by 10%, as SELF previously reported. It prompted the company to release a statement via one of their cardiologists refuting the idea that Peloton could really be a killer of the beloved character. “Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle—including cocktails, cigars, and big steaks—and was at serious risk as he had a previous cardiac event in Season 6. These lifestyle choices and perhaps even his family history, which often is a significant factor, were the likely cause of his death,” said Suzanne Steinbaum, D.O., a preventative cardiologist and member of Peloton’s health and wellness advisory council. “More than 80% of all cardiac-related deaths are preventable through lifestyle, diet and exercise modifications,” she said, emphasizing Peloton’s beneficial role in the latter. “The good news is Peloton helps you track heart rate while you ride, so you can do it safely.” So, could an intense cycling workout cause a heart attack? Maybe, as SELF previously reported, but it’s not likely. 

The Early Stages of Heart Failure Can Be Surprisingly Easy to Miss

The Early Stages of Heart Failure Can Be Surprisingly Easy to Miss

Getting short of breath when exercisingHaving problems performing any kind of physical activityExperiencing swelling, also called edema, especially in their lower legsSome people with vaginas may also have symptoms that seem like an upper respiratory infection, such as wheezing, coughing, or being short of breath—so you may think these are symptoms of something like bronchitis when they’re actually heart failure symptoms. That’s why it’s important to reach out to a doctor if you find yourself out of breath frequently when doing things like walking up the stairs or on a short stroll to the mailbox.Heart failure complicationsHeart failure is a known cause of illness and death in people assigned female at birth.1 It’s true that most people with vaginas tend to develop heart failure at an older age than people with penises, but even if you’re on the younger side there are risks.1 The biggest one is experiencing heart failure symptoms that you don’t recognize as such. If you don’t take steps to treat it, the heart failure can worsen and potentially cause things like heart valve problems and kidney damage, or become fatal if left ignored.Mental health is another aspect that you’ll want to address. People with vaginas and heart failure are more likely to experience higher rates of depression than people with penises and heart failure. They also typically report worse quality of life, according to an article in the journal Clinical Cardiology.3What are heart failure treatments by stage?Now for the good news: You can definitely make changes to both prevent heart failure and to keep it from progressing to advanced stages. The power is (at least partially) in your hands.“The habits you develop now will affect your heart 10, 20, or 30 years down the road,” Dr. Shufelt says. “Such habits include getting regular exercise, eating a Mediterranean-style diet, not smoking, and not being around people who smoke.”Your doctor will consider your heart failure stage or your personal risks—like having diabetes or smoking—to make treatment recommendations. If you know you’re in a certain stage, talk to your doctor about making the changes that make the most sense for you.It’s important to note that treatment guidelines are based on the ACC/AHA stages, as the NYHA system does not provide this information.4Stage AHere’s where you’ve really got to take a look at the lifestyle factors that could hurt your heart. According to Penn Medicine, this means:Stop smoking if you smoke.Engage in regular exercise—ideally 150 minutes per week.Stop illegal drug use if you use drugs.Stop drinking or limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for people with penises or one drink a day for people with vaginas.Seek treatments for high blood pressure or high cholesterol.Take stock of other lifestyle behaviors and try to eat a balanced diet, get restful sleep, and manage everyday stress.Stage BWhen you’re in stage B, your heart is affected. That’s why doctors will usually prescribe medicines to help protect your heart. These include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs). Both of these medicine types help to relax veins and arteries, which is important because it helps get blood to all the various parts of your body. Think of it like this: You can move more water through a wider straw than a narrower one, and that’s exactly what these meds do for your blood.Stage CIf you reach stage C, your activity is likely limited by your heart failure symptoms, per Penn Medicine. You’ll usually get short of breath, cough, and may even have some swelling that keeps you from moving well. Your doctor may suggest the following treatment options:

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