Heart failure is an epidemic disease in our country and a major cause of death, hospitalization, suffering and cost, according to the American Heart Association.
One of the common symptoms patients with heart failure experience is a limitation of their ability to exercise or complete simple daily tasks.
To determine the severity of a person’s heart failure and his or her limitations for exercise, physicians and nurses employ multiple tests once or twice a year to measure the patient’s exercise capacity and oxygen usage.
However, these tests are often cumbersome and costly – and they cannot be repeated on a daily basis to determine whether a patient’s heart function is improving or deteriorating.
At Advocate Christ Medical Center, Dr. Marc Silver, a cardiologist and founder of the heart failure program at the Advocate Heart Institute, has studied this issue for many years.
He recently reported the results of a study he conducted on the association of the number of steps tracked using a pedometer and the findings from more costly medical tests to determine advancement of heart disease.
“By using a pedometer, patients can be empowered at home to recognize early warning signs of heart failure or further heart decline,” said Silver.
He says that some people may have a diagnosis of heart failure, but do not display symptoms, so tracking steps could help them notice health changes before the onset of symptoms and seek proper medical treatment.
“If people can make a habit of checking their steps at least six days a week and compare the steps to prior days, they can look for indications of declining heart health,” said Silver, who recommends that patients see their physician if they have more than two to three days of declining steps without a valid reason.
“With the presence of pedometers everywhere these days–on our wrists and embedded in our smartphones, patients have a better way to record and report personal health, notice early warning signs and help prevent avoidable emergency visits and hospitalizations.”
Risk factors for heart failure:
– Family History of heart failure or sudden death
– High blood pressure
– Sleep apnea
– A diet high in sugar and saturated fat
– Sedentary lifestyle
Silver says that feeling more fatigued than usual for several days, leg swelling, shortness of breath, and/or having any of the above risk factors increases heart failure risk, and he suggests you see your primary care physician or cardiologist if you suspect you may have heart failure.