Heart failure (HF) does not mean your heart has stopped beating. HF occurs when:
- Your heart muscles cannot pump (eject) the blood out of the heart sufficiently. This is called systolic heart failure.
- Your heart muscles are stiff and do not fill up with blood easily. This is called diastolic heart failure.
Both of these problems mean that the heart is no longer able to pump enough oxygen-rich blood out to the rest of your body. As the heart's pumping action is lost, blood may back up in other areas of the body.
Don't be disheartened by the word 'failure'. For most patients, heart failure cannot be cured, but you can help to keep it from getting worse or even make it better by taking your medicine, eating the right foods, watching your fluids and exercising. If you take care of your heart, you can feel better and enjoy life.
- Blockages in the blood vessels that may lead to a heart attack
- High blood pressure that may cause diastolic heart failure
- Disease of the heart valves
- Infection of the heart muscles
- Cancer drugs
- Genetic abnormalities that run in families
In many cases, the cause is never known. This is termed as ‘Idiopathic cardiomyopathy'.
- Weight gain of more than 1 kg overnight or more than 2 kg in a week.
- Shortness of breath after climbing a flight of stairs or getting dressed
- Difficulty breathing when lying down
- Weakness or tiredness
- Swelling in the ankles or legs
- Loss of appetite
- Belly pain and fullness
If you develop any of these symptoms or they are getting worse, call your doctor or nurse.
You can prevent your heart failure from getting worse and often help it get better. Here are some things that you can do to feel better.
- Take your medication
- Eat low sodium (low salt) food
- Watch your liquid intake
- Make lifestyle changes
- Weigh yourself every day
- Quit smoking
- Avoid alcohol
- Visit your doctor
There have been many new developments in treating heart failure. If medication and lifestyle changes are not enough to control your symptoms, your doctor may suggest:
CARDIAC RESYNCHRONIZATION THERAPY (CRT)
A normal heart sends electrical signals to both lower chambers or "ventricles" of the heart to make them pump at the same time. Sometimes in heart failure patients, the two chambers do not pump together. A special pacemaker called CRT is a small battery-powered device that is placed under the skin that helps make the two sides of the heart beat together. It has special wires called "leads" that send tiny electrical signals to the heart telling the heart muscles when to pump. CRT is a pacemaker that tells both ventricles to pump at the same time, so it has leads on the right and left side of the heart. CRT can reduce your heart failure symptoms and increase your ability to exercise and be more active.
IMPLANTABLE CARDIOVERTER DEFIBRILLATOR (ICD)
Some patients with heart failure have dangerously fast heartbeats called "ventricular tachycardia" or "ventricular fibrillation." This fast heartbeat can cause serious symptoms such as fainting or even death. An ICD is like a pacemaker that can be inserted under your skin. It can recognize a dangerous heart beat and send an electrical signal to the heart and return the heart back to a normal heartbeat. If your heart needs both a CRT and an lCD, they can be placed at the same time using one device.
VENTRICULAR ASSIST DEVICE (VAD)
A Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) is a mechanical pump inserted into your body to improve blood flow. If you have severe heart failure, your heart is unable to pump enough blood to your body's organs and tissues. Therefore, a VAD may be needed. You will need an open heart surgery to implant the mechanical pump. The VAD works together with your own heart to pump more effectively. VADs can stabilize your heart condition and allow you to become stronger and feel better. This option may not be possible for everyone.
Heart Transplantation is an operation to replace a diseased heart with a healthy heart. It is a treatment used for severe heart failure when a patient may be at the risk of dying and his heart efficiency is gradually going down to end stage heart failure with an expected survival of no more than a few months. With heart transplantation, the expected survival at 1 year can be greater than 90%, but as a few organs are available only a few can have heart transplantation.
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