The first National Heart Failure Awareness Week is happening this week

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There are more than 600,000 people living with heart failure in Canada. However, more than one in four people do not know what this chronic illness is, and almost half think that it can be cured, according to research conducted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

There is no cure for heart failure at present. Despite this devastating fact, heart failure diagnosis is on the rise — there has been a 25% increase in heart failure hospitalizations in the last decade, especially in adults between 30 to 39 years of age. Heart failure patients need advocates, and as the first and only patient-led heart failure charitable organization in Canada, we’re working to engage patients, families, and caregivers.

Now, from May 6 to 12, we have the sincere pleasure of being part of Canada’s first National Heart Failure Awareness Week with the Canadian Heart Failure Society (CHFS), Canadian Cardiovascular Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and Quebec Heart Failure Society.

CHFS is taking steps to engage health care providers to raise awareness about new and current standards of practice, in order to improve care for patients living with heart failure. The goal of the inaugural National Heart Failure Awareness Week is to promote heart failure awareness among health care professionals, patients, and their families.

Developing heart failure

So, how does an individual develop heart failure? CHFS explains that the most common causes are coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.

Other causes may include diabetes, congenital heart conditions, viral infections, and chemotherapy, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, heart valves that are not working properly, arrhythmia, pregnancy, other conditions such as thyroid disease, infection, and heart muscle disease of unknown causes.

Working with your healthcare team can help you discover if you are at risk of heart failure and take precautions to prevent this condition. For example, if you have high blood pressure, make sure it is well controlled.

Living with the illness

Although heart failure cannot be cured, you can live a full life when you effectively manage the illness. There are treatment options available that can help patients feel better and live longer. Together with your healthcare provider and family members, you can build a plan that supports your needs and goals.

Not all heart failure patients will experience the same symptoms. Learning about your symptoms and how you can recognize them is key. Your healthcare team can help you build an action plan, so you know what to do when you experience a change in your symptoms.

Most of all, remember to be patient with yourself as learning to live with heart failure takes time. Share your feelings and talk about your concerns with your healthcare team. Talking through your experience in support groups can help relieve some of the stress, pressure, and anxiety, linked with managing the illness.

How we’re helping heart failure patients

At the HeartLife Foundation, we’re working to raise awareness of heart failure and taking action for patient care while building a local, regional, and national, network of heart failure advocates. Our president, Dr. Jillianne Code, along with our co-founder and vice president, Marc Bains, collaborate with stakeholders to ensure patient access to the latest innovative therapies.

This includes sitting on panels, committees, and boards, to provide patient perspective and contribute from a foundational level. We advocate at government level, in meetings with MLAs, as well as writing letters to the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) and PDCI Market Access to support specific medications.

The HeartLife Foundation mentors, supports, and guides, patients, families, and caregivers, in times of need and operate a closed Facebook support group. Additionally, we educate and empower patients online to effectively self-manage their illness and share information detailing the latest research, trends, and tips, on our social media channels.

For further resources and support, visit the CHFS, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and the Quebec Heart Failure Society.

IF YOU’RE LIVING WITH HEART FAILURE, OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS THIS CHRONIC ILLNESS, CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR CLOSED FACEBOOK SUPPORT GROUP AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION.