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Heart and cardiovascular system

Heart failure, how to limit the risk after a heart attack?

January 1, 2018


The outcome of an infarction is damage to the tissues of the myocardium, which is the heart muscle. The degree of this damage is associated with the risk of developing heart failure: ‘Not all individuals who have been affected by a heart attack risk heart failure. Anyone who has suffered a greater heart attack will be at greater risk’, explains Dr. Maddalena Head of the Cardiovascular Department at Humanitas. What could be done to reduce the chances of developing heart failure?


The heart after a heart attack

Heart failure is a syndrome characterized by the inability of the heart to perform its pump function efficiently. The part of cardiac tissue not affected by ischemia, which has continued to receive blood and oxygen through the coronary arteries, will try to compensate for the tissue that was affected by the infarction. Therefore, a heart weakened by a heart attack can have an impaired pump function if the damage is significant.


Heart health conditions are evaluated by an instrumental examination by which the ejection fraction is measured, i.e. the percentage of blood pumped by the left ventricle: ‘The ejection fraction, detectable with an echocardiogram, is good to measure the extension of the damage developed as a result of a heart attack – explains Dr. Lettino. – If this percentage is low, below 35% – 40%, then the damage is very significant and the risk of heart failure is higher’.

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Preserve the pumping function

Prevention of heart failure is an integral part of infarction treatment: ‘When the damage is extended, a drug therapy is defined to reduce the chances of heart failure’, recalls the specialist. ‘The patient will have to follow the therapy regularly and adhere scrupulously to the prescriptions’.


Alongside drug therapy, there are variations of the lifestyle that contribute decreasing the risk of heart failure: ‘Control of body weight, adherence to a “diet that is friendly to the heart”, reduction of cholesterol levels, increase of physical activity and stopping smoking cigarette are all useful actions to protect the health of the heart. This way, the patient will reduce the risk of heart failure also because a new ischemic episode is avoided. A second heart attack would only extend the damage of the myocardium tissues, making heart failure most likely to occur’, concludes the specialist.

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