Listen to Your Heart

While most people are aware of the symptoms of a heart attack, fewer people know about other, more common forms of heart disease.

Nearly 5 million Americans are currently living with congestive heart failure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), and almost 1.4 million of them are under the age of 60. Another 2.2 million Americans have irregular heart beats. Heart failure is responsible for 11 million doctor’s visits annually and more hospitalizations than all forms of cancer combined.

To help you gain a better understanding of the symptoms and treatment of congestive heart failure and irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation), Upson Regional Medical Center will host a seminar with cardiologist Dr. Mark Dorogy and internist Dr. Keith Huckaby.

The free seminar, Listen to Your Heart, will be held Thursday, Feb. 28, from 7 – 8 p.m. in the Auditorium. The Cherokee Café will provide heart healthy snacks and recipes for attendees.

Congestive Heart Failure: Heart failure results from a weakening of the heart’s muscle. Although the “failing” heart keeps working, it fails to pump blood throughout the body effectively. Heart failure also is often called “congestive” heart failure because fluid can build up in the lungs and body since the heart isn’t pumping properly.

People with congestive heart failure often experience shortness of breath when they are exercising, progressing to shortness of breath while at rest and then to problems breathing at night while lying down. Other symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain and swelling of the feet and ankles.

Dr. Dorogy notes that congestive heart failure becomes more common as people age. “Other risk factors could include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking,” he adds. “Heart failure is common in both men and women – it’s an equal opportunity killer.”

Arrhythmias: “All of us have irregular heartbeats on occasion, and that tends to increase as we age,” says Dr. Dorogy. “Chronic irregular heartbeats, also known as atrial fibrillation, can cause the heart to work less effectively and may increase risk for congestive heart failure” Individuals with this chronic condition need to be aware of congestive heart failure symptoms and report any change in health status to their physician.

Dr. Huckaby says Upson has resources to help people who have or are at risk for congestive heart failure. “Although congestive heart failure cannot be cured, in most cases it can be managed effectively through medication, a low sodium diet, and good self care,” he said. “Upson has a clinic designed to help patients learn to care for their condition and prevent inpatient hospitalization.”

If you suspect you have either congestive heart failure or heart arrhythmias, consult your regular physician.