Simple Tips That May Help Prevent Heart Failure

Heart failure — a situation in which the heart muscle doesn't pump blood adequately and causes breathing difficulties — is a common cause of mortality for both sexes in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Every year, 805,000 Americans have a heart attack, with one person passing away from heart disease every 34 seconds. In 2020, heart disease was responsible for one in five deaths in the U.S.


Heart failure specifically is noted in one in eight American death certificates. Despite great strides in cardiovascular disease treatments, heart failure remains a growing medical issue and is the number one cause of hospitalizations in Medicare enrollers.

Heart failure is a serious condition that often results from long-term health conditions. According to the Heart Failure Society of America, risk factors that increase the risk of heart failure include heart attack, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects, diabetes, obesity, and severe lung diseases, among others.

A study in the journal Circulation Research points out that up to half of fatalities in heart failure patients are unexpected and sudden. Not to mention, the risk of sudden cardiac death in those who have heart failure is six to nine times higher than that of the general population.


Although heart failure is life-threatening, it can be preventable. Below, check out simple tips that may help you avoid symptoms of heart failure and live longer.

Keep your blood pressure under control

High blood pressure adds strain to the heart and contributes to heart failure. To minimize the risk of heart failure, it's important to keep your blood pressure under control.

According to the U.K. National Health Service, high blood pressure is typically defined as readings from 140/90 mm Hg. Ideal blood pressure is often between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. You are more at risk of high blood pressure when you are overweight, sleep-deprived, eat too much salt, lead a sedentary lifestyle, or drink too much coffee or other caffeinated beverages.


To keep your blood pressure down, Mayo Clinic recommends eating a diet rich in whole grains, potassium-loaded fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. When low in saturated fat and cholesterol, this sort of diet can reduce blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg. Cue the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet and the Mediterranean diet. At the same time, reduce the consumption of highly processed food and sodium.

It's also worth noting that excessive alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure and eventually lead to heart failure. Alcoholism impairs and thins the heart muscle, limiting its ability to pump blood. When your heart is unable to efficiently pump blood, a lack of blood flow impairs your body's key activities and can lead to heart failure. 


Exercising and keeping tabs on your weight

Individuals with obesity are more susceptible to heart failure. Exercising also helps lower blood pressure. To reduce the risk of heart failure, therefore, it's crucial to keep tabs on your diet and exercise to stay in shape. 


Interventional cardiologist Lance LaMotte tells CNET, "Studies have shown a decreased likelihood of heart attack and stroke by maintaining or increasing activity with age." To shed excess pounds and lower your risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends engaging in moderate-intensity aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes per week. It's okay if you can't reach 150 minutes per week just yet, but at least make sure you start somewhere.

Technically speaking, any form of physical activity can be good for your overall health. However, according to HonorHealth, activities that stand out as being particularly effective in improving the flow of oxygen and strengthening your heart health include swimming, weight training, walking, and cycling.


Before starting any new fitness regimen, it's important to speak with your doctor if you have any health conditions or if you have symptoms of diabetes or heart, kidney, or lung disease. This is because some activities are unsafe for those with certain health conditions. For instance, those with ongoing cardiovascular problems may need to refrain from sit-ups and push-ups to prevent stressing their hearts.

Refrain from smoking

Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease and other heart conditions, including heart failure. According to an editorial in the journal Circulation Research, smoking causes blood pressure to spike, increases pulmonary artery pressure, shoots up systemic vascular resistance, and amplifies exposure to carbon monoxide — which damages the kidneys and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart failure.


According to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, smokers of tobacco cigarettes get heart failure at a rate that is double that of non-smokers. In the study, researchers examined the health conditions of roughly 9,500 participants, including non-smokers, former smokers, and current smokers. Over a 13-year period, heart failure struck current smokers twice as frequently as non-smokers.

The moral of the story is: the more regularly a person smokes, the higher their risk of heart failure is. The study's senior author Kunihiro Matsushita says, "These findings underline the importance of preventing smoking in the first place, especially among children and young adults."


Trying to quit smoking can be a long and daunting process, but it's a challenge worth taking in the name of heart health. You can join a quit-smoking course, use self-help materials, or consult your physician for help.

Prevent and treat other heart problems

"To avoid heart failure, there's a need to prevent other heart problems," says Johns Hopkins cardiologist Steven Jones. Heart disease can develop at any age. However, adults aged 65 and older, and adults with conditions such as obesity or high blood pressure, are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, which affects the heart, the blood vessels, or both, and increases the risk of heart failure.


If you have ongoing cardiovascular problems other than heart failure, take care to follow your treatment plans strictly. A condition that has already taken a toll on the heart can eventually lead to heart failure. 

For instance, if the heart valves are damaged, the heart struggles to adequately pump blood throughout the body and must work harder to do so. There would not be enough blood flowing through the heart to the rest of the body. Heart failure, abrupt cardiac arrest, and death can result from this, CDC warns.

To reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases altogether, pay attention to your diet, fitness regimen, body weight, blood pressure, and lifestyle habits. Go for the recommended heart health screenings to be given an update on the factors concerning your heart health, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. It is easier to address risk factors that are recognized early, so doctors can help you reduce your risk of heart failure.