People urged to watch for signs of heart failure

By Wu Liang-yi and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Wed, Jun 19, 2019 - Page 4

People over 65 with a history of cardiovascular disease should pay attention to heart failure, a sign of which is rapid weight gain, a cardiologist said on Saturday.

People who gain 1.5kg within three days or 2kg within a week should consult a physician, Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital cardiologist Wang Chun-chieh (王俊傑) said, adding that edema — swelling caused by excessive fluid buildup in the body’s tissues — could also be a sign of heart failure.

Heart and organ failure claim 70,000 lives annually in Taiwan, Wang said.

Heart failure is a late-stage manifestation of cardiovascular disease, and people with the condition have high hospitalization and mortality rates, he said.

Statistics from 2017 showed that the hospitalization rate for people with heart failure was 32.3 percent and had been increasing on a yearly basis, he said, adding that many patients were hospitalized again within six months of being discharged.

When the heart fails to pump blood as well as it should, the burden on other organs increases, leading to health problems, Wang said.

That is why the mortality rate of heart failure — 50 percent — is higher than those of many cancer types, he said.

People with heart failure usually have swollen hands and feet, as the circulatory system cannot move fluids around properly, Wang said.

Patients might also feel lethargic and have difficulty breathing, he said, adding that the symptoms are often overlooked as they are similar to those of other illnesses.

Heart failure is the most important problem for cardiology researchers to tackle, Taiwan Heart Foundation executive director Hwang Juey-jen (黃瑞仁) said, adding that the National Health Insurance Administration in 2017 added the condition to its acute late-stage treatment program.

The foundation encourages cardiologists who treat heart failure to seek healthcare quality accreditation from the Joint Commission of Taiwan, he said.

The foundation earlier this year released new guidelines on heart failure treatment to ensure standardized procedures in the condition’s treatment, foundation secretary-general Wu Yan-wen (吳彥雯) said.