Heart Failure Awareness Day: how healthy is yours?

Heart failure (HF) is a life-threatening medical condition affecting one percent of the population under 65. It often has no cure. However, patients who follow their doctor’s treatment plan and make simple lifestyle changes can live longer, feel better and be more active. 

heart beat
Today is HF Awareness Day in 21 countries throughout Europe, aimed at raising awareness of the condition by providing information about symptoms and the importance of an early diagnosis and optimal treatment in a variety of formats.The European-wide initiative was developed through the combined efforts of national HF societies across Europe, as part of the Heart Failure Association’s activity. HFA is a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Commenting, Professor Petar Seferovic from the ESC said:”European HFA-Day is vitally important in getting potentially life-saving messages out to the public. Growing annually, some thirty European countries have participated in the event over the past two years.”

Christel Moser, a sports coach who attended last year’s HFA-Day activities in Wurzburg, Germany, along with her training group, believes it is important for patients to become experts on their disease and to live healthier lives.

“It’s not only about patient awareness; it is also important for family members to better understand what is happening to their loved ones,” she said.

Prof. Seferovic said that even more countries are expected to participate this year.”Increased participation will lead to higher visibility of the issues surrounding HF. Ultimately, better awareness will encourage countries to invest more financial resources for treatment and prevention,” he said.

Countries taking part this year include the UK, where a dozen hospitals including Bristol Community Health and Whittington Health will organise events to mark the day. Stands will be set up with information for patients and the public in general with information on HF and practical tips on how to make dietary changes, including restricting salt and sugar, increasing exercise, losing weight, stopping tobacco and drinking alcohol moderately.

Lithuania will also host public events in two large cities. They will focus on HF prevention and educational seminars at clinics. In Greece, doctors will give out information at open-air tables centrally located in large cities. Germany will host a multi-generational HF Information Day at a clinic while Denmark is planning to promote it to the media as a national day.

Other activities planned throughout Europe include press conferences, radio and TV programs, school events and distributing print information. Additional support and information available at:  www.heartfailurematters.org, a website six different languages, with factual information, including causes, symptoms, treatments, facts and myths, about HF.

HF is a serious medical condition where the heart does not pump blood around the body as well as it should. This means that blood can’t deliver enough oxygen and nourishment to the body to allow it to work normally. This may cause tiredness or fatigue. It also means that the body can’t eliminate waste products properly – leading to a build-up of fluid in the lungs and other areas, such as legs and abdomen.

HF usually develops due to a medical condition such as coronary artery disease, or is provoked by a heart attack or high blood pressure, which damages the heart or increases its workload.

Approximately 1 percent of people under age 65; 7 percent of 75 to 84 year olds and 15 percent of people over age 85 have HF.

Prof. Seferovic adds:”It is important for doctors to monitor a patient’s signs and symptoms to see how well they respond to treatment. If symptoms continue, more therapy might be needed. If symptoms get worse, the patient should get medical attention right away.”

During HF Awareness Day, key messages about prevention will also be highlighted: “As well as treatment, patients with HF should make dietary changes, including restricting salt and sugar, increasing exercise, losing weight, and stopping smoking and drinking alcohol” said Prof Seferovic.

The Heart Failure Association of the ESC, hopes that by increasing people’s understanding of the condition during Awareness Days, diagnosis and treatment will take place earlier and preventive measures will increase. The ultimate aim is to reduce the burden that this disease brings to families and indeed health systems across Europe

More information is available at the following websites
1. Understanding Heart Failure. Heartfailurematters.org. Available at: http://www.heartfailurematters.org/EN/UnderstandingHeartFailure/Pages/index.aspx.

2. What is Heart Failure? Heartfailurematters.org. Available at: http://www.heartfailurematters.org/EN/UnderstandingHeartFailure/Pages/Whatisheartfailure.aspx

3. ESC Clinical Practice Guidelines on Acute and Chronic Heart Failure: http://www.escardio.org/guidelines-surveys/esc-guidelines/Pages/acute-chronic-heart-failure.aspx