IT'S a serious condition that claims eight Australian lives a day and is the number one cause of hospitalisation for those aged 65-plus.
But heart failure is dangerously little known by many people, leaving an alarming number vulnerable to the long-term condition, according to leading charity hearts4heart.
It says 30 per cent of patients admitted to hospital with heart failure are readmitted within 60-90 days and about one in three of those will die within a year of being diagnosed.
In the lead up to the inaugural Heart Failure Awareness Week (June 27-July 3), hearts4heart is urging every Australian to be smart about their heart.
"Heart Failure Awareness Week has been developed to raise awareness about the prevalence of heart failure, and educate people about symptoms, especially among those aged 65 and older, caregivers and healthcare professionals," says chief executive Tanya Hall.
Ms Hall, who who lost her father to heart failure when he was just 59, said recognising the symptoms was the key to early diagnosis and ensuring the best health outcomes for patients.
The campaign also creates an opportunity to encourage critical conversations about the importance of reform in how heart failure diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management are addressed in Australia, she said.
"Delayed diagnosis and upward trends in Australian heart failure hospital admissions is a serious cause of concern," said the director of the Cardiology Research Unit at Barwon Hospital, Associate Professor John Amarena.
Heart failure doesn't mean your heart has stopped; rather it is "failing" to keep up with your body's demands.
The heart is unable to pump enough blood through the body to meet its nutritional needs, either because the heart is unable to fill with enough blood, or its pumping action isn't strong enough, or both.
When left untreated, heart failure progressively worsens, but with early diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes, a person with heart failure can reduce their risk of hospitalisation and improve their quality of life.
Common heart failure symptoms can often be dismissed as other health issues or even old age. Recognising symptoms is key to early diagnosis and the best health outcomes.
Symptoms can include any of the following and should be discussed with your GP:
"I had never heard of heart failure, but now looking back, I was experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath, tiredness and lower tolerance to exercise that I now know are signs of heart failure," said Paul Kelly, who was diagnosed with the condition at the age of 47, shortly after having a heart attack.
"I won't be able to run a marathon again, but I'm grateful that with the right management plan, I am still able to bond with my son, go for walks with my wife and fix up vintage Japanese motorcycles as my hobby.
"Speak with your GP if you're experiencing any symptoms, and get your heart checked.
"You've only got one heart - don't fail it!"
During the week, hearts4heart will launch Australia's first Heart Failure Patient & Caregiver Charter with the support of Parliamentary Friends of Heart and Stroke, clinicians, patients and caregivers.
The Australian first aims to support shared decision-making between patients and clinicians, reduce preventable hospitalisations, and improve the overall quality of life of heart failure patients and caregivers.
"Together, we can help patients affected by heart failure to feel better and live longer, healthier lives, but it requires a commitment from all Australians," said MP Maria Vamvakinou, chair of the parliamentary group.
"Knowing the symptoms and understanding that each case of heart failure is unique can help in the coordination of an effective care plan for patients and caregivers."
To show national support and help put heart failure on the national agenda, Old Parliament House in Canberra will be lit up on June 29 at 8pm and beat red.
To watch a video about heart failure, click here.
For more information about hearts4heart, click here.
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