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Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped, but rather that a slow, progressive weakening of the heart is affecting how efficiently it can pump. Although there isn't a cure, medications, procedures, and lifestyle changes help patients live their lives to the fullest. 

What Are the Symptoms of Heart Failure?

  • Shortness of breath (also called dyspnea) 
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Edema
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Lack of appetite, nausea, and digestion issues
  • Confusion and impaired thinking
  • A racing or throbbing feeling in your chest
  • Weight gain

What Are the Causes and Risk Factors?

Heart failure is more likely to happen as we age, but this risk is increased if there is another heart condition present like coronary artery disease, previous heart attack, or uncontrolled high blood pressure. However, anyone can develop heart failure, even without known risk factors. Being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle contribute to the onset of heart failure.

How is Heart Failure Diagnosed?

After an examination, your doctor may decide that tests and procedures should be ordered to help determine exactly which part of the heart is having trouble pumping. These tests and procedures may include:

  • Blood tests
  • X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram
  • Exercise stress test
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Angiogram

What Are the Treatment Options?

Successful treatment of heart failure depends on your commitment to following a care plan that usually includes a comprehensive approach including lifestyle changes, medications, and procedures. 

Lifestyle changes may include:

  • Healthy eating
  • Exercise
  • Limiting sodium and alcohol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing stress
  • Monitoring weight
  • Cutting caffeine
  • Getting flu and pneumonia vaccines
  • Tracking specific symptoms that your doctor recommends

Other interventions may include:

  • Medications
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), commonly known as angioplasty
  • Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair (TMVR) or MitraClip
  • CardioMEMS™ monitoring system to help manage medications and reduce hospitalizations
  • Treatments to improve valve function
  • Devices such as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or a pacemaker
  • In rare cases, a patient may need a heart pump (left ventricular assist device—LVAD) or heart transplant 

What Are the Typical Outcomes?

Living with a chronic condition like heart failure can be challenging, but following your doctor’s orders and living a healthful lifestyle will help you enjoy life.  Erlanger offers a range of options that can greatly increase quality of life for patients with a heart failure diagnosis.

Can I Prevent Heart Failure?

Some risk factors, like age and a genetic predisposition toward heart disease, cannot be changed. But in the vast majority of cases, a healthful lifestyle can reduce the complications from these risks.