Understanding your risk of heart failure

August 26, 2015 By Catherine Callan, APRN

Catherine Callan, APRNAccording to the Centers for Disease Control more than 5.1 million Americans suffer from heart failure; this number continues to climb. Heart failure among those 65 years and older is one of the most common reasons for hospital admission, per the American Heart Association.

But don’t be fooled as this condition is not just limited to this age group. Heart failure is caused by conditions which can damage your heart or make your heart work harder. You may have risk factors for heart failure and be totally unaware. Therefore, it is very important to have at the very least an annual exam with your primary care provider who can evaluate and screen you for these risk factors. If you have more than one of these conditions you may be at high risk for developing heart failure:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Abnormal heart valve
  • Heart defects at birth (congenital heart disease)
  • Severe lung disease
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea

If you have signs and symptoms of heart failure, such as shortness of breath, swelling in the legs and/or stomach, cough, fatigue or decreased appetite, your primary care provider may order testing to evaluate your heart. One common test is an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of your heart. An echocardiogram is not invasive or painful. It takes ultrasound pictures and tells your provider how the heart is beating and pumping your blood.

If you experienced heart failure and/or were recently hospitalized, you can be seen in a heart failure clinic. The Heart Failure Bridge Clinic located in The Hospital of Central Connecticut provides one to one education to you and your loved ones. The Heart Failure Bridge Clinic empowers you to manage this chronic condition at home and decreases the chances of you returning to the hospital.

Catherine Callan is an advanced practice registered nurse and manages The Hospital of Central Connecticut’s outpatient Heart Failure Infusion Center and Heart Failure Bridge Clinic, which can be reached at 860.224.5694. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 1.800.321.6244 or online, www.thocc.org.