There is nothing to panic on hearing the word ‘hear failure’. Don’t presume that your heart has stopped working or that your life is over! It is used to describe the heart functioning rate-to notify that the heart is not pumping as efficiently as it should. Heart pumps blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to other parts of the body and when these parts are well-nourished, they perform their function accurately. During a heart failure, the heart is unable to perform its job of pumping blood and hence, other organs of the body are not supplied with enough nutrients and are unable to perform their activity. This leads to fatigue, breathlessness and even cough in some people.
Heart failure rates are increasing at an alarming rate worldwide, especially in our country. The International Congestive Heart Failure (INTER-CHF) study measured mortality rates in patients who suffered from a heart attack across a span of 1 year and found that India (23%) and Africa (34%) had the highest mortality rates! This comes as a disappointing piece of information at a time when we boast about advancements in technology and science, but in reality we are not doing much personally to improve on our health.
When we are in such a bad state, how would you like it when your doctor asks you to get onto a scale and predicts your risk of heart failure by looking at the scale values? This scale does not measure your weight alone but intimates your heart health! That’s the new study done by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine who have discovered a new risk factor for heart failure-leg bioimpedance. This study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and shows that individuals who have a lower leg bioimpedance were at a higher risk for heart failure.
Impedance measurements garnered interest beginning in the 1940s when it was found that changes in impedance was related to changing blood volume. Since then, improvements in impedance techniques paved way for developing diagnostic and prognostic tools in cardiovascular medicine. Such developments have elicited interest in using impedance measurements to benefit in the field of heart failure management.
Impedance is a measure of the degree a substance resists the flow of electrical current of a given voltage. Practically speaking, impedance measures how well the body resists current flow through the human body when a small amount of current flows though it. Generally, blood and fluid show a lower resistance to current compared to something more solid, such as muscle tissues. Bioimpedance analysis is widely used in body composition measurements and healthcare assessments. Whole-body bioimpedance has been practiced for quite a long time but not much research has been done on leg bioimpedance for heart failure. Monitoring body weight and body fat percentage gives an idea about body composition changes and also helps to predict heart failure status. Combining the body weighing technique along with bioimpedance techniques helps to monitor heart failure status.
The researchers involved analyzed data of over 5,00,000 UK patients aged between 49 and 69 years to find any clues on new risk factors for heart disease. They used 3,646 variables pertaining to health, lifestyle and disease-related factors for every patient with the help of computer-assisted techniques and the results obtained are not surprising-occurrence of a previous heart attack, chronic heart disease and diabetes were top factors for heart failure. Along with these was a surprising addition-leg bioimpedance.
The excited research team focused on this factor as this is a new risk factor as well as an easily measurable one. They measured bioimpedance using a body composition analyzer which looked like a standard scale but with handlebars. Electrodes fit under each foot were used to send small electric currents and measure impedance (resistance) in the tissue. As stated above, fluids such as blood and water are strong conductors of electricity and hence, show less resistance compared to muscle tissues that show greater resistance.
The researchers predict that individuals who had lower leg bioimpedance could have already had some fluid buildup in their legs, a common sign of a heart failure. The low impedance rates could have determined water retention levels that were yet to be diagnosed by physicians and even before any signs of heart failure set in, such as fatigue or breathlessness. The researchers feel that there are a number of individuals who experience abnormalities in the hearts and lungs that cause symptomatic heart failure but sadly, don’t recognize/experience any of these symptoms as they are strikingly sedentary. Start leading an active lifestyle by getting in touch with a reputed RDN at www.firsteatright.com. Even after analyzing such a large group of individuals the researchers find it necessary to repeat the study to confirm the results thoroughly.
The team proudly feels that the simple algorithm they develop could help to predict the risk of heart failure within eight years. So, when you stand on the scale, you get double rewards-in addition to you body fat percentage you also get to know your risk of heart failure within the next 8 years! The formula would contain the patient’s age, sex and details whether the patient previously suffered from a heart attack or not. Leg bioimpedance could be a blessing in disguise for predicting the risk of heart failure in people who lead an exceptionally sedentary lifestyle.
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