Disability Due to Chronic Heart Failure
The heart is the ultimate workhorse muscle in the body. After every pump, it rests for a split second and pumps again. But as the heart ages, various problems may occur where the heart must work harder to pump blood through the body. This is known as heart failure. “With heart failure, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body's needs. The chambers of the heart may respond by stretching to hold more blood to pump through the body or by becoming stiff and thickened.” Categories of Heart Failure There are two categories of heart failure. When the heart muscle cannot pump the blood out very well, this is systolic heart failure. Systolic heart failure can be caused by coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction or heart attack, and hypertension. “Systolic heart failure is more a valvular disease, and it can be congenital or viral.” When the heart muscles are too stiff and do not fill up with blood easily, this is diastolic heart failure. One the heart muscles stiffen, that weakens the entire heart. Diastolic heart failure is common among individuals with diabetes and hypertension. Diagnosis Doctors use blood tests to look at kidney and thyroid function, cholesterol levels, and anemia or low iron. Blood tests are also used to look at B-type Natriuretic Peptide levels as high levels indicate heart failure. Chest x-rays are used to determine “the size of the heart and whether there is fluid buildup around the heart and lungs.” Echocardiograms are used to assess “the heart's movement, structure, and function.” Electrocardiograms record “the electrical impulses traveling through the heart.” If systolic heart failure is suspected, a doctor may order an “ejection fraction to measure how well the heart pumps with each beat.” Treatments “There are more treatment options available for heart failure than ever before. Tight control over medications and lifestyle, coupled with careful monitoring, are the first steps.” Since heart failure tends to worsen over time, doctors do careful monitoring to slow the progression. Some suggestions for slowing heart failure progression are: to keep blood pressure low; stop smoking; limit sodium intake; take medications as prescribed; control diabetes; monitor body weight and lose weight if needed; exercise regularly; and for an individual to monitor their own symptoms to discuss with their doctor at regular visits. Social Security Administration The Social Security Administration (SSA) spells out what they look for when looking at chronic heart failure as a disability. In assessing chronic heart disease, the SSA does not differentiate what caused the heart failure to begin with. The SSA solely looks at how much an individual is impaired. When making the assessments for disability, the SSA reviews blood tests, x-rays, and other tests. The SSA looks at very specific medical documentation for either systolic or diastolic failure that results in a number of symptoms. SSD applications require extensive documentation on an applicant's medical condition. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.