The heart does a Herculean job in the human body. That's why heart
failure--a chronic condition in which the heart is too weak to pump blood
through the body--is so dangerous.
"While the heart tries to compensate for the weakness by enlarging
or trying to pump blood faster, among other things, those are only stopgaps--this
is a chronic condition that only gets worse," says
Henry Kaw, Jr., MD, a board-certified family medicine physician with
St. Jude Affiliated Physicians. "Over time, the heart can't keep up with its task, which means
the body can't keep up with the demands of daily life, and simple
movements become a chore because of fatigue and labored breathing,"
The good news is that there are things you can do to cut your risk of heart
failure. "Most cases of heart failure are brought about by another
problem with the heart, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease
and heart attack," Dr. Kaw says. "Keeping your heart in shape
is the best preventive measure, and the American Heart Association has
devised an easy guide to doing that."
The association has crafted Life's Simple 7. This checklist allows
you to score yourself based on certain wellness criteria. A recent study
in the association's
Circulation: Heart Failure journal found that a better score on Life's Simple 7 equaled a better
chance of avoiding heart failure. For instance, the people who scored
in the middle third out of all study participants had an almost 50 percent
lower risk of heart failure compared to people who scored in the bottom third.
You can get your Life's Simple 7 score
here. The seven areas of focus are:
- Blood sugar
- Blood pressure
"If you don't meet the numbers given for some of the levels on
the checklist, such as cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, it's
time to get them checked by your doctor. You'll also want to talk
with your doctor if you find an area on concern on the Life's Simple
7 list," Dr. Kaw says. "The checklist comes with a list of steps
you can take to improve your score and together with your physician, you
can set some wellness goals to achieve a better score. Heart failure is
more common than you may think--almost 6 million Americans live with the
condition, and by age 40, people have a one in five chance of heart failure.
It's worth taking the time to find out how you can prevent heart failure
from happening to you."
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