Up to 50% of people with heart failure are at risk of iron deficiency, which can have a major impact on their quality of life, experts have warned.
With heart failure, the heart is not working as well as it should be. It cannot pump enough blood around the body because the walls of the heart have become too weak or too stiff to work properly.
Around 90,000 people are currently living with the condition in Ireland and this number is growing by 10,000 each year.
However, up to 50% of those affected are also at risk of iron deficiency, which can have a big impact on quality of life, the ability to exercise and mortality. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness, which are similar to the symptoms of heart failure.
However, people with both heart failure and iron deficiency tend to require longer hospital stays than those with only heart failure.
A national collaborative clinical audit of heart failure in Irish hospitals was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Heart Failure Association (ESC HFA) Congress earlier this year. This audit found that among 474 heart failure patients in Irish hospitals, 57% were diagnosed with iron deficiency and experienced a longer length of stay in hospital (8.1 days) compared to those who were not deficient in iron (5.9 days).
According to consultant cardiologist at University Hospital Waterford, Dr Pat O'Callaghan, iron deficiency in heart failure is complex. It can occur due to a number of factors, including reduced dietary intake of iron, reduced gastrointestinal absorption, and increased iron loss from gastritis (inflammation of the protective lining of the stomach) and duodenitis (inflammation of the duodenum).
Furthermore, iron deficiency in heart failure can occur in both anaemic and non-anaemic patients.
"The condition is closely linked with a decreased quality of life and it's important for healthcare professionals and patients to understand that checking iron stores early can help to improve quality of life for patients. This is a common condition, more common than we realise, and because it is not widely diagnosed, people living with heart failure are not enjoying the quality of life they deserve," Dr O'Callaghan said.
Meanwhile, according to Neil Johnson, CEO of the heart and stroke charity, Croí, educating patients about their condition is key.
"For people living with heart failure, it is important to empower them with the knowledge that getting their iron levels tested regularly can help to improve their quality of life," he commented.
People living with heart failure are encouraged to ask their GP, heart failure nurse or cardiologist to check their iron levels.
This issue was highlighted as part of World Iron Deficiency Day (November 26). For more information on iron deficiency, click here
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