Don’t forget Heart Failure Week: Feb. 14-21

Every reader of this newsletter should know that heart failure (HF) is the most common cause for hospital admissions for patients over 65 and that there are many new treatments available, even for patients with advanced disease. Some treatments can be as basic as sodium restriction and exercise.

Unfortunately, there still is very little awareness about HF among the general public. For that reason, there is a nationwide effort under way to raise awareness about HF and what can be done for it. The Heart Failure Society of America based in Minneapolis has designated the week of Feb. 14-21 National Heart Failure Awareness Week and CNN’s talk show host Larry King has agreed to be the effort’s national spokesman.

Various hospitals have planned coordinating activities to participate in the special week. Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago has a variety of patient, staff, and physician activities planned that week. Patients will be able to obtain information on the latest treatments of heart failure, learn simple things that they can do to improve their quality of life, and learn who is at risk for heart failure.

"The goal," says Marc Silver, MD, director of the Christ Heart Failure Institute, "is to raise the level of awareness about heart failure so that people are better informed on earlier detection and improved treatment — similar to what has taken place with breast cancer awareness or AIDS awareness. We will be distributing yellow ribbons, which the Heart Failure Society of America has designated the symbol of heart failure awareness."

For Heart Failure Awareness Week, Silver recommends:

- Physicians make sure HF patients are getting proper treatment (review their medication and diet) and instruct them on proper exercise.

- Patients increase their knowledge about HF and the current treatments. Often, simple changes in diet or medication can alter how people feel and how long they live. (See patient education handout on HF, p. 22, and blurb at left.)

- Family members and friends of a person who has HF need to know about basic things like exercise, diet, and medications.

- Patients at risk for developing HF need to discuss with their doctors early symptoms of HF such as shortness of breath, fatigue, or leg swelling, as well as their risk of getting HF. Doctors have found that the earlier HF is diagnosed and treated the more can be done for a person. People at risk are:

— the elderly;

— those with previous angina or heart attack;

— those with previous bypass surgery or angioplasty;

— diabetics;

— those with high blood pressure;

— smokers;

— alcoholics;

— those with a family history of heart failure.

"We are hoping this will be the beginning of more awareness and publicity surrounding heart failure," says Silver. He says that unless people get educated, this disease will reach epidemic proportions in the decades to come.

[For more information, contact: Heart Failure Society of America, Box 358, 420 Delaware St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455. Telephone: (612) 626-3864. Fax: (612) 624-2174. Web site: http://www. hfsa.org.]