In response to the growing impact of heart failure in the United States, I’m collaborating with the American Heart Association to help spread the word about heart failure and what we all can do to live heart healthier lives!

There are nearly 6 million people in the United States, right now, dealing with heart failure.

In the year 2009, one in 9 deaths included heart failure as a contributing cause.

And, of all the people who develop heart failure? About half of them pass away within five years of their diagnosis. [source]

But what is it?

heartie!

As a trainer with multiple certifications in nutrition and fitness, one of the core components of certification is learning about the human heart and what not only affects it, but what strengthens it. When it comes to conditions like heart failure, more people are dealing with it than we think – despite the American Heart Association’s numbers, I suspect that many people aren’t being tested for it and, therefore, aren’t getting the help they need. That being said, here are some key points that you need to know, and ways to help both yourself and the people you love to fight and avoid this condition.

1. Heart failure isn’t quite what it sounds. Heart failure isn’t merely “when your heart stops beating”—that’s a heart attack. Heart failure is, quite literally, a heart that fails to keep up with the rest of the body.

A heart has one primary responsibility: pump your blood—it’s what delivers oxygen throughout your body—into your blood vessels, where it travels to ensure that all of your limbs to get that much-needed oxygen. Remember how we talked about the fact that your heart beats faster when you’re exercising because your muscles need that oxygen in order to continue to keep up with your chosen activity? When your heart fails to keep up, and continues to fail to keep up on a consistent basis, that’s “heart failure.”

The expectation is that by 2030, heart failure will affect at least 22% of the population, bringing the total number of affected people to more than 8 million. That means one in every 34 of my U.S. readers. Wow.

Click here to learn more about heart failure.

2. How do you know you have heart failure, or that you might be close to the ledge? Well, let’s think of it in terms of what happens when you can’t keep up during exercise. What happens when you’re feeling out of breath in the middle of a workout? You feel dizzy, lightheaded, and can’t think straight, right? You feel nauseous, and it takes you a while to catch your breath…or you may regularly feel out of breath. If you feel that way regularly outside of exercise, it might be due to heart failure.

A constant cough; a swelling of the knees, ankles, lower body, belly, or feet (you might find your shoes fitting much tighter); a lack of appetite; and generally high blood pressure are also core signs of heart failure.

The American Heart Association notes that, by themselves, any of these issues may not be cause for alarm; combined with any other, however, should be considered grounds for a checkup. (Protip: If you think you need a checkup, be sure to mention that you’re concerned about having heart failure when you make the appointment.)

Click here to learn more about symptoms of heart failure.

3. The road to a healthy heart might not be a hard one, after all. Some may need an implanted device like a pacemaker, some may need surgical or medicinal care, but all will need appropriate lifestyle changes like—say it with me—exercise!

The most reliable way to strengthen your heart is to stop the things that might be negatively impacting it. According to the AHA, that means no smoking. Limiting caffeine and alcohol. Managing your stress. And…losing and maintaining a weight that is healthy for your particular lifestyle. Otherwise, all the ways in which we’d improve our health in other areas are the same way we can positively impact our heart health! Eating a diet of primarily fresh produce and quality protein sources, monitoring our blood pressure, getting appropriate levels of sleep, being consistently active, and developing an encouraging support system are the best ways to positively affect our heart health.

Click here to learn about living with heart failure, and measures to help avoid it.

I’m about to go for a speed walk with Baby Sprout and Mini-Me right now and get my heart rate up so that I can work on making it stronger. What are you about to do for a healthy heart today?

Learn more about heart failure by checking out the American Heart Association’s Rise Above Heart Failure campaign.

Follow the American Heart Association on social media:

Help us make some noise! Visit the Thunderclap here to share your own Heartie – yes, that’s a selfie with your hands forming a heart in it! – using the hashtag #MyChangeOfHeart and support the American Heart Association!

Visit www.riseabovehf.org for more information.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of American Heart Association. The opinions and text are all mine.