Heart failure steals precious moments away, here’s how:
How heart failure affects your heart
Heart failure (HF) doesn’t mean your heart stops beating; it simply means that your heart is not working as well as it should. Blood flows less efficiently, increasing pressure on the heart. Your heart may stretch to hold more blood, or the heart muscle may become thick and stiff. As a result of your heart being weak, your body doesn’t get enough blood with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. You may have heard of a condition called congestive HF (CHF). CHF is HF with symptoms of fluid buildup in other parts of your body, like your legs or lungs.
Your heart is divided into 2 halves. Each half is like a pump that helps blood flow through your body. HF can affect one side or both sides of your heart. Most cases involve damage to the heart's left side. This is called left-sided HF. The left side of the heart supplies most of your heart's pumping power. Left-sided HF impacts your heart's ability to do its job of bringing oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the rest of your body.1
In cases of right-sided HF, the right side of the heart has trouble pumping blood to the lungs, where the blood picks up oxygen.
HF is almost always caused by some underlying illness or disease that has damaged your heart over time.2 High blood pressure and diabetes are often to blame—especially if they haven't been well controlled with proper medicines.2 Sometimes other problems, such as hardening of the arteries or a heart attack, further set HF in motion.2 Unfortunately, these conditions are more common in African Americans than in other ethnic groups. This may help explain why African Americans are twice as likely to die from HF than other Americans.3
Heart failure can sneak up on you
HF doesn’t happen all at once. Instead, your heart gets weaker over time. At first, your heart tries to work harder to get its job done to make up for the loss of pumping power. It might pump faster than usual.4 These changes might help your heart meet the body's needs for a while—and you probably won't notice that anything is different.4 As time passes, however, your weakened heart won't be able to keep up with your body’s needs.4 That's when the telltale symptoms of HF start. You may feel worn out and short of breath just climbing the stairs. Or you may notice swelling in your feet and legs.4 If you notice these or other symptoms, it's important to visit your doctor right away. Once symptoms start, they can worsen quickly without proper treatment. This is particularly true for African Americans. Although HF is on the rise all across America, it hits the African American community hardest.5
Download tips on living with HF
An HF diagnosis can be overwhelming. Learn to live better with HF here.
See how BiDil may help
Learn about a heart failure medicine that was proven to make a difference in the lives of African American patients in A-HeFT.
Information for Patients about BiDil® (isosorbide dinitrate/hydralazine HCl)
BiDil is approved for use with other heart medicines to treat heart failure in black patients to improve survival, improve heart failure symptoms, and help patients stay out of the hospital longer. There is little experience in patients with heart failure who experience significant symptoms while at rest. Most patients in the clinical study of BiDil also received other heart failure medicines.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
Tell your doctor about any allergies you have, especially if you're sensitive to nitrates, such as nitroglycerin tablets or isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil®). BiDil has a nitrate component, so you need to let your doctor know.
Tell your doctor if you're taking any erectile dysfunction or pulmonary hypertension drugs like Viagra® or Revatio™ (sildenafil), Levitra® (vardenafil) or Cialis® (tadalafil).
WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS
Also tell your doctor if you are taking any medication to decrease blood pressure because when taken with BiDil, blood pressure may become too low.
It is possible you'll get headaches, especially at first, but they often lessen over time. Keep your doctor posted on your headache progress; he or she may want to adjust your dosage.
If you experience dizziness, call your doctor. Please make sure to tell your doctor about any of the signs or symptoms mentioned below or about any unusual events that worry you.
Drinking less fluids than your doctor recommends or losing fluid due to diarrhea, sweating, or vomiting may cause low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting. If fainting occurs, stop taking BiDil and contact your doctor immediately.
Lightheadedness may occur when standing, especially after sitting or lying down.
If you experience any achy and/or swollen joints, unexplained fever for more than a few days, skin rashes, chest pain, prolonged weakness or fatigue (even after a good night's sleep), or any other unexplained signs or symptoms, make sure to tell your doctor as they may be signs of a serious medical condition.
You may also experience rapid heartbeat that could lead to chest pain or aggravate chest pain, or numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
COMMON SIDE EFFECTS
Headache and dizziness were the most frequent side effects experienced in studies with BiDil.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Please click here to see full Prescribing Information for BiDil. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your condition or your treatment. Ask your doctor if BiDil may be right for you.
References: 1. American Heart Association. Types of heart failure. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/AboutHeartFailure/Types-of-Heart-Failure_UCM_306323_Article.jsp. Updated April 6, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2015. 2. National Institutes of Health. What causes heart failure? https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hf/causes. Updated March 27, 2014. Accessed August 19, 2015. 3. Yancy CW. Heart failure in African Americans: unique etiology and pharmacologic treatment responses. J Natl Med Assoc. 2003;95(1):1-9. 4. American Heart Association. About heart failure. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/AboutHeartFailure/About-Heart-Failure_UCM_002044_Article.jsp. Updated April 6, 2015. Accessed August 19, 2015. 5. Mitchell JE, Ferdinand KC, Watson KE, et al. Treatment of heart failure in African Americans—a call to action. J Natl Med Assoc. 2011;103(2):86-98.