Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure? 

Heart failure is a condition where the heart weakens and can not sufficiently pump blood through the body.  This can lead to vital organs not getting enough blood and others may become filled with fluid.  The body may respond by causing one to feel fatigued, short of breath, and swelling.  Heart failure can span from being mild to severe and affects each individual differently.  The two main forms of heart failure include heart failure with reduced ejection fraction and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.  Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction is caused when the heart is too weak so it can’t squeeze effectively.  On the other hand, heart failure with preserved ejection fraction is caused by the heart being too stiff, so it won’t refill with blood normally. 

What causes Heart Failure?

Heart failure can be caused by a variety of things that we can actually try to control.  For example, long standing high blood pressure causes a weakening in the muscle and forces the heart to work harder to produce adequate blood flow.  It is also important to reduce your cholesterol as cholesterol combines into plaques and can clog your arteries.  The heart then has to pump harder to get blood to the body and some of the blood flow to the heart itself might be compromised.  Additionally, certain autoimmune disorders may cause cardiomyopathy which also reduces the heart’s ability to relax and pump properly.  Some people might develop heart failure if there is a defect in one of the valves of the heart.     

What are the symptoms of Heart Failure?

During heart failure, the heart becomes weaker and cannot effectively pump blood to the vital organs in the body.  This may cause a variety of symptoms including shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness.  Some patients may experience swelling in their legs and abdomen, or dizziness.  It is possible to feel a rapid heart rate even at rest.  If your heart failure progresses you may start to have unintentional weight loss or increased weight gain from excess fluid.  It is important to consult with your doctor if you experience any chest pain, shortness of breath, or severe weakness.  For more information on symptoms of heart failure click here.

How to treat Heart Failure?

Heart failure is usually a chronic condition, and the disease progression can be slowed by a combination of lifestyle modifications, medications, and possibly implanted devices.  It is vital to record your daily weights to determine if you are retaining any fluid.  Additionally, maintaining a healthy diet and adding in exercise to your weekly routine will help strengthen your heart.  In addition to establishing a healthy lifestyle, there are a variety of medications your doctor can prescribe to help improve your ejection fraction and symptoms.  In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery or other procedures to treat the cause of your heart failure.  Click here to see the various treatment options for heart failure.         

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