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Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Healthy Geezer


Reducing the risk of heart failure

Q.What can you do to prevent heart failure?

There are a number of things that you can do to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and heart failure. For starters, you should keep the following levels down: body weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, sugar, alcohol and salt. Exercise regularly. And, if you smoke, quit.

The most common symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling, which usually occurs in the ankles, feet and legs. Swelling is caused by fluid build-up in the body and can lead to weight gain, frequent urination and a cough.

Because the symptoms are common for other conditions, your doctor will determine if you have heart failure by doing a detailed medical history, an examination and several tests.

There is no cure for heart failure, but it can be controlled.

People with heart failure are usually on a low-salt diet to prevent fluid build-up. Their doctors may also tell them to lose weight, quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake.

Medications that are used include diuretics, “water pills,” to reduce fluid; ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure and reduce heart stress; beta-blockers to slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure; Digoxin to help the heart beat stronger.

Q. What exactly are “germs”?

Germs are microbes that cause disease. Microbes are microscopic organisms that are everywhere. While some microbes cause disease, others are essential for health. Most microbes belong to one of four major groups: bacteria, viruses, fungi or protozoa.

Bacteria are made up of only one cell. Less than one percent of them cause diseases in humans. Harmless bacteria live in the human intestines, which help digest food. Some bacteria produce dangerous poisons. Botulism is a severe form of food poisoning caused by toxins from bacteria.

Viruses are among the smallest microbes. They consist of one or more molecules that contain the virus’s genes surrounded by a protein coat. Most viruses cause disease.

There are millions of types of fungi. The most familiar ones are mushrooms, yeast, mold and mildew. Some live in the human body, usually without causing illness. In fact, only about half of all types of fungi cause disease in humans. Penicillin and other antibiotics, which kill harmful bacteria in our bodies, are made from fungi.

Protozoa are a group of microscopic one-celled animals. In humans, protozoa usually cause disease. Some protozoa, like plankton, are food for marine animals. A protozoan parasite causes malaria.

Q. How is atrial fibrillation treated?

Atrial fibrillation – also called AF or AFib – is the most common form of irregular heartbeat. It is an abnormal heart rhythm originating in the atria, the heart’s upper chambers. The rate of impulses through the atria can range from 300 to 600 beats per minute.

Initially, medications are used to treat atrial fibrillation. When initial remedies don’t correct or control AF, a procedure such as electrical cardioversion may be necessary. This procedure delivers an electrical shock to your chest wall to restore a normal rhythm.

Then there are devices such as an implantable atrial defibrillator that delivers low-dose therapy to convert AF to a normal heart rhythm.

Patients with chronic AF not relieved by medication or procedures are candidates for surgical treatment. Many of these approaches can be performed with minimally invasive (endoscopic, or “keyhole”) surgical techniques.

Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. If you would like to ask a question, write to fred@healthygeezer.com.


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