Everyone knows that the heart is one of the most important organs in the human body, yet people sometimes tend to ignore signs that are telling them their hearts have been in trouble.
That may cause them to suffer chronic heart failure and even die suddenly as a result, according to a cardiologist.
Dr. Yu Cheuk-man, director of the Chiu Hin Kwong Heart Center in Hong Kong Baptist Hospital, said that strictly speaking, heart failure is not a disease itself but the result of other illnesses such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
As health deteriorates due to these conditions that are not properly controlled or healed, the heart may end up failing to perform its function of effectively pumping blood to other parts of the body and result in its failure.
According to the New York Heart Association, doctors usually classify patients’ heart failure into four classes according to the severity of their symptoms：
1) No limitation of physical activity: Ordinary physical activity does not cause fatigue, palpitation, or dyspnea (shortness of breath).
2) Slight limitation of physical activity: Comfortable at rest. Ordinary physical activity results in fatigue, palpitation and dyspnea.
3) Marked limitation of physical activity: Comfortable at rest. Less than ordinary activity causes fatigue, palpitation, or dyspnea.
4) Unable to carry on any physical activity without discomfort: Symptoms of heart failure at rest. If any physical activity is undertaken, discomfort increases.
While the probability of death for those showing symptoms of Class 1 is only 6-8 percent, that for Class 4 can be as high as 15 percent.
Older people tend to be stricken by heart failure more easily due to age but it has been found that more and more young people in Hong Kong are also under similar risk since their living and eating habits are being more westernized.
Although the total number of people who have been hospitalized for heart failure over the past 10 years in Hong Kong only accounts for 1.5 percent of the population, the trend that the annual number has been increasing by 10 percent is causing concern, according to Yu.
How can people avoid the risk of contracting heart failure?
Yu said everyone should manage health to prevent or control the “three highs”, namely high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose.
Also people are strongly advised to see a doctor as soon as possible if they show some symptoms that don’t go away, including asthma, breathing difficulty, edema and sudden drop of the amount of exercise capacity.
If one is diagnosed with heart failure, Yu said he or she should pay special attention to both water and salt intake as well as consult a doctor for medication or even undergo surgery.
[Chinese version 中文版]
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 24.
Translation by Taka Liu
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