Advanced Heart Failure
Heart failure is more common than many of us would like to believe. Rather than simply being the sudden, catastrophic stopping of the heart, heart failure is a gradual process that occurs in stages, characterized by the heart not pumping blood as well as it should. Unfortunately, heart failure has risk factors that are all too common among American adults.
You may be considered at risk for heart failure even without structural heart disease if you have such risk factors as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis, obesity, or metabolic syndrome. You may also be considered at risk if you have structural heart disease or have had a previous heart attack.
Symptoms of heart failure include decreased exercise tolerance, meaning that you notice a marked difference in your fatigue levels or how out of breath you feel during exercise or at rest. Leg or abdominal swelling and fluid retention are also symptoms of heart failure. Your doctor may also notice enlargement of the heart or other symptoms during an examination.
Diagnosing Heart Failure
There are a number of tests that your physician may order to test for symptoms of heart failure:
- Six-minute walk test
Treating Heart Failure
The good news is that many patients at risk for developing heart failure can be treated with lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, managing high blood pressure, and keeping your cholesterol in check can all help prevent decreases in heart function. In patients with more advanced signs of heart failure, medications and implantable devices (e.g. pacemakers) may be used to help mitigate the symptoms.
When a patient is considered to be in heart failure, special therapies are used in conjunction with lifestyle changes, medication, and devices. A salt-restricted diet may be imposed, and diruetics may be prescribed to help ease fluid retention.
Treating Advanced Heart Failure
Heart failure is considered advanced when a person’s daily life and activity is severely limited by their decreased heart function. Fatigue, chest pain, or feeling out of breath may occur even at rest, and worsen during activity.
In advanced heart failure, therapies typically take one of four possible courses:
- Compassionate end-of-life care (Hospice)
- Medication and IV therapy
- Heart transplantation
- Mechanical Circulatory Support/Ventricular Assist Devices (VAD)
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with advanced heart failure, you can find the care you need at the Center for Advanced Heart Therapies, a part of the Tenet Florida Physician Services network of heart specialists. Our highly specialized heart failure therapies are designed to expand the treatment options for heart failure patients and give improve their quality of life. The Center for Advanced Heart Therapies team includes renowned heart surgeons, heart failure and transplant cardiologists, and VAD coordinators dedicated to caring for patients living with heart failure and their families.