How to recognise heart failure stages

Heart failure is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide It’s characterised by the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently. Recognising the stages of heart failure is crucial for effective management and treatment. These stages, ranging from at-risk individuals to those with advanced symptoms, provide a framework for early diagnosis and intervention. Understanding the progression can help patients and healthcare providers identify symptoms, implement lifestyle changes, and select appropriate therapies to improve the patient’s quality of life and outcomes. Discover more as Bloom Financial Services explores the nature of heart failure stages. 

Understanding heart failure: causes and conditions

Heart failure is a complex medical condition resulting from the heart’s inability to pump sufficient blood to meet the body’s needs. It is not a disease but rather a condition that stems from various underlying causes, like cardiovascular disease, which leads to the weakening or stiffening of the heart muscle. Understanding these causes of heart failure stages is essential for effective prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Several diseases and conditions contribute to the causes of heart failure. Some of these include: 

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). This is the most common cause of heart failure. It occurs when the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become narrowed or blocked, leading to a heart attack. The damage from a heart attack can significantly impair the heart’s pumping ability, leading to heart failure.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure). Chronic high blood pressure forces the heart to work harder to pump blood, leading to thickening and eventual weakening of the heart muscle. Over time, this increased workload can lead to heart failure.
  • Cardiomyopathy. This refers to diseases of the heart muscle. Causes include genetic factors, viral infections or exposure to toxins. Cardiomyopathy affects the heart’s ability to fill and pump blood effectively.
  • Diabetes. This metabolic disorder increases an individual’s risk of developing heart failure through its association with coronary artery disease, hypertension, and direct effects on heart muscle cells.
  • Arrhythmias. Abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation, can impair the heart’s ability to pump effectively and increase the risk of heart failure.

Contributing factors affecting heart disease 

Many other contributing factors can cause, exacerbate or increase the risk of developing heart disease. This includes: 

  • Obesity. Excess body weight increases the strain on the heart.
  • Sleep apnea. This disorder causes intermittent hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and increased blood pressure, stressing the heart, which can lead to heart failure.
  • Lifestyle choices. Poor diet, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking can all contribute to the development of heart failure.

Heart failure stages

Stage 1: At risk for heart failure. This is also known as the “at-risk” stage and includes individuals who do not have heart failure but are at high risk due to the presence of conditions or behaviours that increase their likelihood of developing heart failure in the future. This stage is crucial for early intervention to prevent progression to symptomatic heart failure.

Risk Factors include: hypertension, diabetes, genetics, a family history of the disease, obesity, smoking, inactivity or coronary artery disease. During this stage, the individual at risk could engage in prevention strategies like following a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. They can also manage their blood pressure and blood sugar levels. By engaging in regular physical activity, like walking, cycling, or swimming, helps maintain a healthy weight and good cardiovascular health. Quitting smoking will greatly reduce the risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases. It’s also advisable to have regular, routine medical examinations to help detect and manage risk factors like hypertension and diabetes early. Likewise, actively monitoring and managing blood pressure through medication and lifestyle changes is essential. 


Stage 2: Pre-heart failure 

This stage also known as pre-heart failure, involves individuals with structural heart disease but no symptoms of heart failure. This stage focuses on detecting and managing the underlying heart condition to prevent symptom progression. Individuals in this stage of heart failure could undergo diagnostic tests, like an echocardiogram used to assess heart structure and function, as well as MRI and CT scans, which are used to identify heart abnormalities. 


Treatment and Management

Pre-heart failure patients will need to take prescribed medications, like beta-blockers, and statins to manage their heart condition. They may also need to make lifestyle changes in order to follow a particular heart-friendly diet.


Stage 3 Symptomatic heart failure 

This stage of heart failure is characterised by the presence of structural heart disease accompanied by symptoms of heart failure. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and oedema in the legs, ankles or abdomen. Patients experiencing this stage of heart failure will undergo diagnostic tests, like a BNP test to assess the severity of heart failure, chest x-rays and echocardiogram. These individuals will also need to take medications, like diuretics and beta-blockers, to manage the condition. In addition, they may need to use devices like a pacemaker to help manage the condition. 


Stage 4: Advanced heart failure 

This represents advanced heart failure, where symptoms are severe, and patients have limited physical activity. Symptoms include persistent shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and swelling. 

Patients experiencing stage 4 of heart failure may need to engage in advanced treatments, like having a heart transplant, fitting a mechanical circulatory support function or making use of palliative care to relieve chronic symptoms and improve their quality of life. A team of cardiologists and palliative care specialists collaborates to provide comprehensive care. This approach ensures personalised treatment and support for patients and their families.


Get health insurance coverage with specialist benefits 

Understanding and recognising heart failure stages is critical for timely intervention and effective management. By being aware of symptoms and seeking early treatment can significantly improve an individual’s quality of life. As heart failure can lead to extensive medical needs, securing comprehensive health insurance with specialist benefits is essential. Health insurance can provide access to top-tier cardiologists, advanced treatments, and critical support services. Explore Momentum Health4Me health insurance plans and apply for health insurance online.

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