Heart Failure Diagnosis

To gather a detailed heart failure diagnosis, your physician would look at your clinical history. They would look for symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, palpitations and lethargy. They would carry out a thorough physical examination looking specifically for signs of fluid build-up in the legs and the lungs. It would be important to take into account other health conditions including: diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, valvular heart disease, family history of sudden death, chemotherapy, radiation and drug therapy.

The tests that may be considered include:

  • Blood tests- these may include assessment for anaemia, kidney function, cholesterol levels and thyroid function. It may also include NT-pro BNP blood test- a level more than 450pg/mL (in under 50 year olds) or 900pg/mL (in over 50 year olds) could mean you have heart failure.
  • Echocardiogram
  • Cardiac catheterisation
  • Chest x-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)

The process of coronary artery disease starts at a young age. Evidence of cholesterol
deposition can be seen in your teens. With increasing age, the fat deposits build up,
damaging the blood vessel walls. Other substances moving through the blood steam, such as inflammatory cells, cellular waste products, proteins and calcium attach to the vessel walls forming cholesterol plaque.

The most common symptom of coronary artery disease is angina. This can be experienced as chest discomfort, heaviness, tightness, pressure, an ache or squeezing sensation. It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. The pain can radiate to the shoulder, arms, neck or jaw. Associated symptoms can include: breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, nausea, extreme weakness and fatigue.

Angina Heart attack
Caused by a gradual reduction of blood supply to the heart due to the progressive narrowing of the heart arteries. Caused by a reduction of the heart’s blood supply due to a sudden blockage of one or more heart arteries due to a blood clot.
Does not result in permanent heart damage Does not result in permanent heart damage
Symptoms are usually triggered by exertion or strenuous exercise; last a few minutes and subside after rest. Other triggers include stress, eating and cold weather. Symptoms can persist up to several minutes and are not relieved by rest or the nitroglycerin spray. They can be associated with breathlessness, nausea and vomiting, sweating and clamminess and the ‘feeling of impending doom’.
You should contact your GP for them to treat your symptoms and arrange further assessment by a cardiologist if necessary. Emergency medical attention is not usually necessary. Emergency medical attention is paramount as the longer the heart attack persists, the more heart muscle that is irreversibly damaged.

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