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Heart failure on the rise in Malta

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Heart failure is on the rise in Malta, and awareness of the condition was still quite low, cardiologist Robert Xuereb said on Wednesday.

Speaking to mark Heart Failure Awareness Day, Dr Xuereb said heart failure affects one to two per cent of the population.

Sometimes referred to as congestive heart failure, it occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to maintain the blood flow needed to meet the body’s needs.

“We are coming across more patients with heart failure due to the country’s ageing population,” he said, adding that around 700 patients attended the nurse-led heart failure clinic regularly.

Heart failure was more likely to affect the older population, but young people could also be affected, he said.

The cardiology team at Mater Dei Hospital launched a project, ‘Beat It’, within schools to raise awareness about heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

The project aims to identify individuals at high risk of sudden cardiac arrest attending fifth forms in Maltese schools. 

Insisting that awareness about heart failure needed to start from a young age, Dr Xuereb said people needed regularly check their weight, glucose and cholesterol levels. Lack of exercise, unbalanced diet and hypertension were some of the underlying causes of heart failure.

We are coming across more patients with heart failure due to the ageing population

“The life we lead is very sedentary,” heart failure specialist Alice May Moore told the Times of Malta.

“Lack of regular exercise, coupled with smoking leads to higher risks of cardiovascular illnesses,” she said.

Signs and symptoms of heart failure commonly include shortness of breath, loss of appetite, excessive tiredness and leg swelling.

The shortness of breath was sometimes worse when lying down and may even wake a person during sleep, Dr Xuereb said.

The mortality rate in cases of heart failure was quite high and the chances of mortality increased every time a patient was hospitalised.

“The heart failure clinic tries to reduce hospitalisation, since once patients are in hospital they are at an increased risk of infections,” Dr Xuereb said.

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