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Beware, your body may be sending signals of heart failure

Indians are surely winning hearts across the globe, but do you know we are also at the risk of becoming the heart disease capital of the world.

The number of people affected by cardiac diseases has doubled in India. Death rate due to cardiovascular disease rose to 209.1 deaths per one lakh population during 1990 and 2016, says an international study published by Elsevier in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (1).

India houses about 40 percent of the world’s 2.6 crore heart failure patients. As per projections, there are at least 1 crore patients with heart failure in India (2).

Heart failure is a condition when the heart becomes weaker and it’s unable to pump all the blood our body needs. Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are some of the conditions that cause heart failure (3).

Heart attack can be one of the causes of heart failure, but the two aren’t the same (4). Heart failure does not mean the heart has failed completely. It is a term used to describe a heart that cannot keep up with its workload due to which the body may not get the oxygen that it needs.

Heart failure is different from a heart attack which occurs suddenly and unexpectedly when the arteries supplying blood to the heart are blocked and typically results in the death of part of a heart muscle.

The mortality rates post a year of diagnosis in case of heart failure is as high as 23 percent ( 5). One of the major reasons for this high mortality rate is that the patients approach hospitals in advanced stages.

The biggest reason for heart failures in India is lack of awareness and reluctance to go for annual check-ups. Regular check-ups can help you detect any health issues at an early stage.

Also, patients often do not stick to medication and lifestyle changes as prescribed by doctors. This can also impact the overall treatment of heart failure.

Though, heart failure is more common in people above 60 but that doesn’t mean children and younger are protected from it. Heart failure patients in India are almost 10 years younger than patients in the US and Europe ( 5). The genius is in knowing the warning signs and acting on them.

The Signals (3,5)

Sudden weight increase, breathlessness, fatigue, swollen ankles or heart palpitation are some of the symptoms of this serious and progressive medical condition. These symptoms may develop over a period of time.

Heart failure can affect either side of the heart or both and can be acute (for a short-time) or chronic (progressive). Majority of heart failure cases are chronic.

When the heart becomes weaker, the body tries to follow a compensation mechanism which may explain why people do not become aware of heart failure until their condition deteriorates.

Ignoring symptoms that our body is showing can be injurious to our overall health, especially when it comes to heart failure.

Symptoms to watch out for: (6)

  • Shortness of breath- This will result in your inability to perform daily activities like walking or climbing stairs. Heart failure causes the fluid in your body to gather in your lungs making you feel short of breath. This may also happen while you are lying flat.
  • Tiredness – When the body isn’t getting enough oxygen, your muscles and tissues lack energy making you feel tired very easily.
  • Swelling – Legs, ankles or abdomen may show swelling as the fluids in the body accumulate.
  • Loss of appetite- A build-up of fluid around the gut can affect digestion and might cause a loss of appetite, or make you feel sick when eating.
  • Sudden weight increase – If you’ve put up more than two kilograms in one week, you need a check-up for heart failure.
  • Rapid heartbeat – As the body starts to compensate for its reduced ability to pump blood around the body, you may notice a racing heartbeat.
  • Less Urination – Since a less blood reaches your kidneys, you urinate less frequently.

The Solution
Besides early diagnosis and correct treatment, awareness and precautions can help in controlling heart failure. Changes in lifestyle like exercising, reducing sodium in diet, managing stress and controlling weight can substantially improve quality of life. (7)

Just make sure you and your family pay attention to any of these symptoms. If you notice anything unusual, or a sudden worsening of a current symptom, consult your Cardiologist right away.

A single symptom may not sound like a big issue. It’s wiser to use the heart failure symptom checker to learn about potential symptoms. Once you have checked the symptoms, it can serve as a basis for your discussion with the doctor.

To combat the issue of heart failure and to build awareness and propose solutions, The Times of India has launched Beat Heart Failure in partnership with Novartis.

The initiative aims to inform and educate people about this growing disease and to engage with relevant stakeholders on suggesting solutions to offer accessible care and treatments.

To take the heart failure symptom checker, give a missed call on 9025 100 600 or visit www.toibeatheartfailure.com


  1. https://www.rsisinternational.org/virtual-library/papers/a-study-of-new-variables-of-psychological-cognitive-state-in-patients-among-cardiac-diseases Accessed on 22nd Sept, 2019.
  2. http://www.j-pcs.org/text.asp?2016/2/1/28/182988 Accessed on 20th Sept, 2019.
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373142. Accessed on 22nd Sept, 2019.
  4. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/heartattack-vs-heartfailure#1. Accessed on 14th Sept, 2019.
  5. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30196-1/fulltext. 7.Accessed on 22nd Sept, 2019.
  6. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/warning-signs-of-heart-failure. Accessed on 14th Sept, 2019.
  7. White MF, et al. Circulation. 2014;129:e293-e294. Accessed on 14th Sept, 2019.
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