In Italy, over 1 million people suffer from heart failure and every year new diagnoses increase: about 20 cases per 1000 people between 65 and 69 years, and more than 80 cases per 1000 people over 85; 190 thousand hospitalizations a year which generate a total expenditure on the NHS of almost 3 billion per year (Aisc data). “However, heart failure is not diagnosed in time. The delay in diagnosis is mainly due to the paucisymptomaticity of the initial stages of the disease; and, for this reason, heart failure is certainly an underestimated pathology ”.
Salvatore Di Somma, professor of internal and emergency medicine at the University of Rome La Sapienza – in an interview published on the Aleati per la Salute website (www.alleatiperlasalute.it ), the portal dedicated to medical-scientific information created by Novartis Italia – underlines the importance of intervening in a timely manner because, although heart failure is more frequent among elderly people and, statistically, its incidence increases with advancing age, “some cases – explains Di Somma who is also Scientific Director of the Italian Association of patients with heart failure – they also occur in children for congenital malformations and in young adults for diseases of the heart valves or primary heart muscle “.
“In our country – goes on – one in five people over the age of 40 will develop heart failure in their lifetime
and 1 in 3 people mistake symptoms for normal signs of aging. Given these numbers, every person after the age of 40, especially if affected by the risk factors and / or initial symptoms, should undergo a cardiological check-up to assess the possibility that heart failure is present. Certainly, in addition to the ‘official’ patients with heart failure, many others have this disorder but they ignore it ”.
Among the most common factors at the origin of heart failure, previous cardiovascular problems: heart attack, coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, heart valve disease, inflammation or genetic disease of the myocardium, congenital defects, lung diseases. “It is therefore clear – underlines the cardiologist – that all subjects who have already been diagnosed with one of these pathological situations should be considered at risk of being affected or of developing heart failure”.
Symptoms vary significantly from person to person, especially in relation to the severity of the disease and the incidence that the various factors have had in generating it: shortness of breath, even for light efforts, cough, weight gain and swelling in the lower extremities, especially in the ankles. “In any case – adds Di Somma – these symptoms are not specific only to heart failure and can therefore be confused with other acute pathologies, for example of a pulmonary nature. In the initial stages, however, it manifests itself with very nuanced and non-specific symptoms such as: sense of fatigue and tiredness, dizziness and palpitations, tachycardia, loss of appetite and the need to urinate several times during the night. In these cases, given the non-specificity of the symptoms, the possibility is often not considered that this symptomatology could be caused precisely by heart failure and this often delays, therefore, an accurate and timely diagnosis “.
In addition to the lungs, Covid-19 attacks other organs, including the heart. For this reason, due to the Di Somma virus there is a risk that patients with heart failure will increase. “For fear of contagion – concludes the cardiologist – many heart failure patients have delayed seeking medical care at hospitals or doctors’ surgeries and this has led to worse outcomes, with an aggravation of the clinical condition and, at times, loss of human life due to an interruption of the continuity of the treatments and indispensable checks, given the chronicity of the disease. Furthermore, in addition to the lungs, the virus also attacks all organs, especially the heart where it can induce more or less acute inflammation of the myocardium and therefore at a distance new cases of heart failure. An increase of about 30% is expected in the near future of new cases of heart failure, a consequence of infections, even if not serious, from coronavirus “. The expert’s intervention is available on: https://www.alleatiperlasalute.it/alla-scoperta-di/scompenso-cardiaco-come-gestirlo