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The heart is one of the most important organs in our body mainly because of its function. Pumping gallons of blood throughout our body via the blood vessels, the heart has to work tirelessly and constantly. When something causes it to slow down or malfunction, that’s when heart failure occurs. A lifelong non-communicable disease, heart failure has a 20% mortality rate. With a very young population, India’s heart failure patients are on average around 10 years younger than the global number.
It is extremely important to raise awareness of heart failure in our country. The Times of India, in partnership with Novartis, has spearheaded a Beat Heart Failure initiative, with the sole aim of raising awareness among the elderly and young Indian population about the silent killer that is heart failure. A series of discussions took place across the country, with several doctors providing their expert opinions on how to treat heart failure.
Medically, heart failure is different from a heart attack. It is a progressive weakening of the heart muscles which causes the heart to work at minimal capacity. The heart essentially expands and contracts to pump blood through various blood vessels throughout the body. When something like a blocked artery, comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, other heart conditions, etc., affects the contraction and expansion of the heart, heart failure occurs. With the right diagnosis and treatment, heart failure can be successfully managed or even completely reversed.
While heart failure in adults is usually caused by alcohol consumption, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, or damaged heart valves, children and adolescents suffer from heart failure. due to congenital heart defects. About two to three percent of children suffer from heart failure.
A percentage of infants are born with structural heart defects. This causes oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix in their heart. It can also happen due to faulty blood vessels in other organs, abnormal heart valves, or even low blood. All of these defects can cause excessive circulation failure, which can lead to heart failure in children and adolescents.
Although it may sound bleak, the good news is that heart failure in children and adolescents is fully reversible, if detected and treated in time. Parents should know and watch for signs and symptoms so they can follow doctor’s advice when needed.
Common symptoms of heart failure in children include stunted growth or lack of normal growth milestones for age, fatigue easily compared to other children in the age group, as well as swelling of the lower limbs. One of the most common symptoms is when the child stops feeding. It is the sign of a decompensated heart. Older children may have symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and frequent urination at night, weight gain, palpitations, liver or abdominal swelling and/or loss of appetite.
The best news about heart failure in children and adolescents is that after diagnosis, when congenital heart defects are repaired, the heart returns to normal, completely reversing heart failure. Once the repairs are done, even the medications can eventually be stopped and the child can successfully return to a normal life.
Besides congenital heart defects, heart failure in children can sometimes also be caused by viral myocarditis. This happens when the heart muscle suffers damage from viral infections, which reduces pumping. In such cases, the infection can be managed with medication and treatment, it is nearly impossible to return the damaged heart to normal. These children are generally advised to restrict sports, strenuous activities, and even schooling, depending on the severity of the condition.
One of the issues with heart failure in children is managing lifestyle changes. Teenagers can be told to restrict fluid intake, change diet to regulate calories, etc. However, smaller children cannot be easily managed and hence the dosage of drugs is increased in such cases.
With congenital heart defects, depending on the type of defect, surgical procedures may be suggested to repair the defect or even replace damaged valves. Doctors may suggest inserting a pacemaker or LVAD into the child’s body to regulate the heart.
Although it is a serious condition, there is plenty of room for hope and optimism when it comes to heart failure in children and adolescents. If parents monitor the symptoms, understand them and get the right treatment for the child in time, heart failure in children is completely reversible. Children can live long, healthy and normal lives.
Remember that heart failure is not about stopping. It’s about starting life in a new way. To learn more about how to manage heart failure, visit https://www.toibeatheartfailure.com/patientguide.php
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is not to promote any medical procedures or medications and/or to recommend a certain doctor. For any specific health concerns, please consult your licensed physician. The visitor should exercise caution and rational thought when reading and implementing the above content. The above content does not claim to cure, prevent or diagnose any disease or health condition.