Singer, actress raising awareness on issue close to her heart
Queen Latifah knows a thing or two about putting her heart and soul into her music and performances, but that isn’t all she’s focusing on these days.
The award-winning singer/actress has partnered with the American Heart Association (AHA) to spread the word about heart failure (often referred to as congestive heart failure), a life-threatening condition that has affected someone very close to her.
Latifah’s mother, Rita Owens, was only in her early 50s when she was diagnosed with heart failure.
Latifah is working with the AHA’s “Rise Above Heart Failure” initiative, which hopes to educate more people about heart failure’s warning signs and risk factors so the disease can be identified sooner and perhaps be prevented entirely.
“A lot of people mistake the signs of heart failure as just getting older; I know my mom did,” Latifah said in a press release. “But if you have symptoms like feeling short of breath when you bend down to put on your shoes or have trouble sleeping at night without a bunch of pillows – don’t think ‘old age.’ Think ‘heart failure’, and be sure to talk to your doctor.”
Affecting six million people in the U.S., heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition that occurs when the heart muscle becomes weakened and unable to pump enough blood to all parts of the body. The condition is usually caused by stress on the heart from coronary artery disease, high blood pressure or a previous heart attack.
According to the AHA, the heart will initially try to compensate for its weakness by enlarging, pumping faster or increasing its muscle mass. The condition will eventually reveal itself in symptoms like persistent coughing, fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling in the lower extremities. Left untreated, it can ultimately lead to death – as it usually quickly did in the past.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Heart failure is no longer a death sentence,” says Dr. Siddharth Gandhi, an interventional cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “It’s a disease that’s treatable, but it takes work on the physician’s part, work on the patient’s part and a good support network.”
While the damage to the heart can’t be reversed, Dr. Gandhi said that the combination of improved medications and treatments as well as healthy lifestyle changes can help heart failure patients manage their condition and live a longer, more fulfilling life.
“There’s so much information out there – treatment guides for doctors, easy-to-use tools for patients and their families,” Latifah says. “With the right education and support, we can all rise above heart failure.”
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