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Marla Ahlgrimm: The Truth About Heart Issues in Women

January 14, 2013

Marla AhlgrimmMarla Ahlgrimm has dedicated her entire career to women’s health. Today, as baby boomers increasingly reach retirement age, Marla Ahlgrimm believes good heart health is more important than ever. For this reason, Marla Ahlgrimm works hard to keep her patients as healthy as possible.

Marla Ahlgrimm believes knowledge is a large part of the battle to keep women healthy. Recently, Marla Ahlgrimm spoke to us about one of the most common heart problem in women, congestive heart failure.

Q: Thank you for speaking with us today. How serious is congestive heart failure?

Marla Ahlgrimm: It is the most serious cardiovascular condition.

Q: Could you tell us a little about what congestive heart failure is?

Marla Ahlgrimm: With congestive heart failure, the heart has been weakened as the result of hypertension, acute infection, artherosclerosis or alcoholism, among other causes.

Q: Once it’s weakened, what are the consequences?

Marla Ahlgrimm: A weakened heart may eventually become incapable of pumping blood from the left ventricle.

Q: So blood flow is compromised?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Blood actually begins to flow in the wrong direction.

Q: What happens then?

Marla Ahlgrimm: The blood flows back into the lungs.

Q: What symptoms will the patient have?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Frequently feeling short of breath, tiring easily.

Q: What happens if CHF is left untreated?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Many of them eventually will require oxygen. Eventually, blood will pool in extremities.

Q: So someone may experience swelling?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Fingers and feet may swell, or some have swelling of the lower legs and ankles.

Q: How dangerous is CHF?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Very. A survey of 100,000 people over 67 who were hospitalized for initial cases of CHF, those who survived lived only 2.5 years on average.

Q: That’s pretty scary.

Marla Ahlgrimm: Almost 30 percent died within the first year of hospitalization for CHF.

Q: Does CHF only occur to those who have been diagnosed with long-term problems, like high cholesterol or high blood pressure?

Marla Ahlgrimm: CHF can be connected to issues, but sometimes it happens without any warning or even a cause that can be identified.

Q: If someone is diagnosed with CHF, what kind of treatment can they expect?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Doctors will introduce a diuretic to reduce fluid build-up and digoxin. ACE inhibitors are also given to help CHF patients.

Q: Is CHF easy to treat?

Marla Ahlgrimm: No, CHF is a chronic illness that sometimes doesn’t respond to treatment at all. Side effects also result from treatment.

Q: What side effects are there?

Marla Ahlgrimm: In the case of ACE inhibitors, possible weakness and dizziness. Diuretics can lower blood pressure and cause fatigue.

Q: Are there changes a person with CHF can make to improve their chances of survival?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Reducing stress and getting plenty of rest are usually recommended up front.

Q: Is exercise safe?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Any exercise should be approved by the patient’s doctor and done in moderation.

Q: What about diet changes?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Doctors will recommend a low-fat, low-sodium diet.

Marla Ahlgrimm lives in Wisconsin, where she helps women adjust to hormonal changes. The founder of Women’s Health America, Marla Ahlgrimm introduced the term “premenstrual syndrome” to women in the early 80s. Marla Ahlgrimm is respected speaker and columnist on women’s issues, including authoring two books, still on the market today.


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