Heart failure, a largely unknown pathology

Better detection of heart failure is a major issue, according to Medicare. The observation is instructive: 1.5 million people in France are affected, and this pathology, which affects 10% of people over 70, should increase by 25% every four years, mainly due to the aging of the population. Already high, this number is underestimated: “There would be 400,000 to 600,000 people who would not be diagnosed”, warns Dominique Martin, national health insurance medical adviser. Faced with this observation, the information campaign “Heart failure, what if your heart was trying to tell you something?” is launched from September 25, and for five weeks. This is to improve knowledge of heart failure, among the general public but also among health professionals.

Four symptoms should be monitored, grouped together by cardiologists under the acronym “EPOF”: shortness of breath on exertion and/or when lying down; significant weight gain in a few days; edema of the lower limbs – swollen legs and feet –; significant fatigue, even for a small effort, which leads to a decrease in activity, with worsening muscle loss. “Present in isolation, these four symptoms are not specific to the disease, but their association or their recent occurrence should suggest heart failure”says Medicare.

If the general public knows that a pain in the chest can be a violation coronary arteries, angina pectoris or a heart attack, he knows little about heart failure. This is indicated by a BVA survey conducted among sexagenarians for Medicare, presented on Tuesday, September 20. More worryingly, they declare that they do not systematically discuss the occurrence of these symptoms with their doctor, who himself, according to this survey, only mentions these warning signs with a little more than a third of his patients in over 60 years old.

Support too late

“It’s a condition that’s quite largely invisible in its early stages and the signs for which can be partly confused with signs of aging or other causes that could lead to fatigue and shortness of breath”, explains Dominique Martin. However, these signs must be monitored, especially after the age of 60. “The ignorance of the symptoms of this disease and the underuse of the term “heart failure” in the general public are partly responsible for a diagnosis and management that are often too late”also alerted the plea for better care in September 2021, coordinated by the Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Group (GICC) of the French Society of Cardiology.

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