One in five people aged over 40 are at risk of developing heart failure, which most often could be prevented with a change in lifestyle.

There are some 15 million Europeans suffering from heart failure, a very serious disease that is becoming more prevalent in Malta because of the island’s ageing population, chairman of the Cardiology Department Robert Xuereb said.

Medics consider heart failure as having a worse outcome than most kinds of cancer. All other organs depended on the heart, so when this vital organ failed, the others followed suit, Dr Xuereb explained.

Speaking to Times of Malta at the end of a week of events raising awareness about heart failure organised by the Maltese Cardiac Society, Dr Xuereb said the condition was the number one cause of repeated admission to hospital.

It was also the number one condition that led to prolonged hospitalisation, while patients with heart failure had a higher risk of mortality.

The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome

What causes heart failure

Dr Xuereb said there were several causes of heart failure, such as viruses, an overactive thyroid, anaemia and excessive alcohol consumption. The most common cause was heart attack.

“As we all know, heart attacks are caused by coronary diseases, which in themselves are caused by excessive consumption of tobacco, diabetes, hypertension and high blood cholesterol,” Dr Xuereb said.

“These are all preventable through a change in lifestyle.”

Educational talks about lifestyle changes were held at Mater Dei Hospital and other localities throughout the week.

Awareness raising activities also included the participation of the Malta Medical Students Association, whose members checked people’s glucose and blood pressure levels.

How to recognise heart failure symptoms

Dr Xuereb also urged people to look out for heart failure symptoms and seek medical advice immediately.

These included shortness of breath, even when lying down, swollen ankles, quick weight gain and feeling very tired and exhausted. Like any other condition, the sooner it was treated, the better the outcome, he warned.

“Nowadays heart failure could even be detected with a simple blood test,” Dr Xuereb said.

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