Health awareness

What you should know about heart failure

7 signs not to ignore

April 6, 2021

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Heart failure impacts more than six million Americans, and that number is expected to grow to nearly eight million by 2030.  That’s why our focus is on trying to help people with heart failure.

Dr. Joerg Koglin and Dr. Robert Blaustein are leading our efforts here at Merck to advance research into heart failure and help us better understand this disease.

“When I used to care for patients, I saw their difficulties with heart failure and the impact it had on their families and this is what drives my desire to make a difference,” says Dr. Joerg Koglin, vice president, therapeutic area head, global clinical development, cardiovascular, Merck Research Laboratories. 

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“I joined the Merck research team to try to impact patient care at a larger scale, but I still carry my patients’ stories with me.”

Dr. Joerg Koglin

“They‘re my inspiration and the reason why we’re working with urgency…because the prognosis for people with heart failure is poor.”

“Patients with advanced heart failure can get very sick,” adds Dr. Blaustein, executive director, clinical research, cardiovascular diseases, Merck Research Laboratories. “But we continue to uncover more and more each year about heart failure, and I am hopeful that we will be able to translate these learnings into new ways to try and help these patients.”

Here is some important information to know about heart failure, and the seven signs not to ignore.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart doesn’t pump properly to fully support the body’s need for oxygen and nutrient-rich blood.

Some people with heart failure can get worse over time, raising their risk for hospitalizations and death, so it’s important to closely monitor this condition.

Common risk factors

One in five Americans over age 40 will be diagnosed with heart failure in their lifetime. While anyone can develop heart failure, it’s more common as people age.

Hypertension, diabetes and obesity can increase a person’s risk. Many people who develop heart failure have another heart condition, such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure, or they’ve had a previous heart attack.

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7 signs and symptoms not to ignore

The American Heart Association describes seven common warning signs and symptoms of heart failure and encourages people to talk to their doctor if they have more than one of these symptoms:

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Shortness of Breath – during activity, at rest or while sleeping

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Persistent Coughing or Wheezing – that produces white or pink blood-tinged mucus

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Swelling – in the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen; may also notice weight gain

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Fatigue – feeling tired all the time, which may make everyday activities difficult

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No Appetite/Nausea – feeling full or sick to your stomach

Confusion/Impaired Thinking – may involve memory loss and feeling disoriented

Increased Heart Rate – feeling that the heart is racing or throbbing

How to keep the heart healthy

Following a healthy lifestyle helps to protect heart health:

  • Eat nutritious food, including a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; eat less salt, saturated fat and added sugar; and drink water and limit sugary drinks.
  • Get plenty of exercise – at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, plus muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.
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“Many of the factors that may lead to heart failure signs and symptoms and progression can be modified by a healthy lifestyle that includes a heart healthy diet, weight control, exercise, not smoking, and stress management.”

Dr. Robert Blaustein

“Each of these has an impact and, taken together, they can lead to reductions in the risk of developing heart failure,” said Dr. Blaustein.

“Every day is a new opportunity to make healthy choices,” said Dr. Koglin. “Sometimes it starts by changing just one thing – maybe it’s switching out soda for water. Soon enough, small changes can add up to improve health.”