Why Heart Failure?
Heart failure is one of the world’s most burdensome and challenging chronic diseases. It develops when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs or cannot relax properly due to stiffness. In many cases, it is both.
Despite the severity of heart failure and its growing incidence around the world, there are reasons for hope. There are many strategies to help people with heart failure live well, live longer and, soon, help clinicians prevent its progression or complications – or prevent people at risk from developing the disease at all.
Impact on people
At least 1 million Canadians have heart failure – many of whom do not yet know that they suffer from this condition. Due to that, this figure may actually be understated. A compromised circulatory system changes your life and can be so debilitating that almost half of the people afflicted with this disease can die within five years of diagnosis.
Life with heart failure can bring with it many new difficulties, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, a reduced ability to exercise, increased nighttime urination, swelling of the feet, legs, hands and face, appetite loss, nausea, difficulty concentrating, and a persistent cough. In short, it is life-changing – for loved ones and caregivers as well.
It doesn’t have to be this way. While most cases of heart failure are (currently) irreversible, treatments can help ease symptoms and extend life.
Impact on the system
Few diseases take a greater toll on Canada’s health-care system – over $3 billion a year – than heart failure. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, heart failure has the highest average length of stay in hospital across the nation at 9 to 10 days. Given the growing epidemic of heart failure, its impact on our hospitals and health-care resources will deepen.
As it stands, heart failure is a leading cause of inpatient hospitalizations, with newly diagnosed patients spending over 26 days of hospital resources in their first year of treatment. It is the most rapidly rising cardiovascular disease among Canadians and one of the most expensive health problems we deal with collectively.