A Beat Ahead: Preventing Sudden Heart Failure

Sudden heart failure occurs when the heart stops pumping as much blood as the body needs to function. Sudden heart failure causes rapid fluid buildup, or congestion, in the lungs and other parts of the body. Its symptoms develop suddenly and can include a severe shortness of breath, an irregular/rapid heartbeat, and the presence of foamy, pink mucus during coughing. Sudden heart failure is an emergency medical situation and requires immediate care. But heart failure can be prevented by avoiding the triggers that cause it.

What triggers sudden heart failure?

Triggers upset the delicate balance in your body, making it even harder for your heart to pump effectively. When your heart suddenly cannot pump the blood that your body needs, symptoms of sudden heart failure develop. Some common triggers that can lead to sudden heart failure are:

  1. Salt
    After eating salty foods, you probably notice that you are thirsty and want to drink extra liquids. Sodium is a major component of salt and will cause your body to hold onto (retain) fluid even if you don’t drink more liquids. This extra fluid causes your heart to work harder than normal to circulate the extra blood volume throughout your body. You should not eat or drink more than 2 g (2000 mg) of sodium in your diet each day.
  2. Vigorous Exercise
    Moderate, regular exercise is very good for you and your heart. It improves your circulation and helps you control your weight. But if you overexercise to the point that you become out of breath, have chest pain, or become dizzy, you may be doing more harm than good. Overexercise increases your heart’s workload and can reduce its ability to pump effectively. When you exercise, watch for signs that your heart is being stressed. If you become out of breath, have chest pain, or become dizzy, stop exercising. Talk with your doctor about whether you need to slow down, decrease your time, or avoid those activities.
  3. Improper Medicine Use
    It is important to take all your medicines and to take them at the times you and your doctor decided upon.Your medicines help keep a delicate balance between the amount of fluid in your body and the ability of your heart to effectively pump blood. If you delay or miss doses of your medicines, it can affect this balance. Also, let your doctor know about any nonprescription medicines or natural supplements you take, because they might contain sodium or make your prescription drugs work less effectively.

Not all people are sensitive to or react to the same triggers. What may cause sudden heart failure in one person may not cause another person any difficulty.

To avoid sudden heart failure: pay attention to your symptoms, keep your diet, exercise, and medicine routine as close to the same schedule as possible, and avoid things that you know can trigger heart failure, like eating too much salt. Sudden heart failure is an emergency medical situation and requires immediate care. If you suspect you are suffering from sudden heart failure call 9-1-1 immediately.

+ Read more articles about Cardiac Health
+ Learn about the Bon Secours Heart and Vascular Institute

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