What is heart failure?
Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle weakens and cannot adequately pump blood to the rest of the body. Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped. Instead, patients with heart failure develop the condition over time, as the heart becomes weaker and weaker. The condition is serious but also very common, affecting more than 5 million people in the United States.
Some patients with heart failure may not show any symptoms, while others may experience tiredness or feel short-winded after even normal activities.
Heart failure symptoms include:
- Tiredness and fatigue with normal activities
- Feeling short-winded
- Needing extra pillows to prop yourself up to sleep
- Swelling in feet and ankles
- Coughing frothy phlegm
Someone with heart failure may exhibit one or all of these symptoms, or maybe none at all. It depends on the person’s overall heart health and whether the heart is in a weakened state.
If you think that you or a loved one is experiencing heart failure, call a doctor immediately.
Heart failure can be diagnosed with tests that include:
Your doctor may also recommend a cardiac catheterization to determine why the heart muscle is weak.
The Heart Failure Center at the LifeBridge Health Cardiovascular Institute can show you what kind of heart failure you have and why. Some causes include:
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease/heart attack
- Toxic (alcohol or drug-induced)
- Stress reaction
- Family history
If you have heart failure, you are at risk for developing:
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Anemia (low blood count)
- Blood clots
The team members at the Heart Failure Center provide comprehensive services to patients with heart failure. For more information, call 410-601-WELL (9355).
It is important to know that you are not alone. The Heart Failure Center at the LifeBridge Health Cardiovascular Institute is here to help you get better. We work in collaboration with you, your heart doctor and your primary care provider to treat your heart failure and provide the education and support you need.
Several medications are used to treat heart failure, including:
- Beta blockers
- Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEs)
- Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
- Aldosterone receptor antagonists
Visit the American Heart Association for more information about these medications and how they can help.
It is important to take medications as prescribed and order your refills in a timely manner. If you have symptoms, we can often evaluate you urgently and determine if you need intravenous medications to prevent fluid buildup.
Other treatments for heart failure include lifestyle changes like reducing salt intake and controlling other related conditions such as sleep apnea, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.