Heart failure affects six million Americans, according to Dr. Sara Weiss of Virginia Mason, and 1 in 5 Americans will go on to develop heart failure at some point in their lives.
Heart failure can be a confusing term. It means that there is a problem with the function of the heart.
Heart attacks, high blood pressure, valve problems, alcohol abuse, and certain kind of chemotherapy can cause failure.
For Janet Henry, chemotherapy for her stage three breast cancer led to heart failure.
Henry knew that chemotherapy might lead to heart failure, so she was carefully monitored. When she started noticing symptoms, she went to Dr. Weiss.
Symptoms often include fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling of lower extremities, and unexpected weight gain. Henry was having overwhelming fatigue that started taking a toll on her and she could no longer work.
The chronic condition is not curable and requires a lifetime of treatment -- primarily through medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes pacemakers -- but Dr. Weiss wants patients to understand that it is treatable, despite its terrible name.
Over the course of one year, Henry and Dr. Weiss worked together to adjust her medication to and get her to feeling healthy again.
“I am a very determined individual,” said Henry. “I got a puppy and that puppy makes me walk and exercise is very good for you.”
Henry also started a low-sodium diet and had the support of her family and friends, who called themselves “Team Janet.”
Now, Henry’s heart function is back to normal and she has resumed working and traveling.
But prevention is key. Weiss says working with your primary care physician to get treated for underlying conditions and living a healthy lifestyle is important.
“We need to manage this disease better, we need to prevent it more often because it is affecting many, many people,” said Dr. Weiss.
Dr. Weiss jokes that your grandma’s advice is the best advice when it comes to managing your health:
“Get off the couch and go play with your neighbor, eat your broccoli, dessert is for after dinner.”
Dr. Weiss encourages patients to make simple changes that can be implemented every day, rather than going on a 6-month diet.
This segment brought to you by Virginia Mason.