Heart Failure Treatments
James Ganem, MD, the medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Banner Desert Medical Center.
Question: My aunt was recently diagnosed with heart failure, so I’m curious about what that means and what her treatment options are?
Answer: Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart becomes weakened or damaged and cannot pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body. Generally, heart failure develops over time and is considered a chronic medical issue.
In more advanced stages, heart failure may require surgery to repair the heart so it can pump blood more efficiently.
Depending on the root causes of your aunt’s heart failure and the resulting damage, she may need a coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty to enhance her body’s ability to keep blood moving to and from the heart.
Her heart failure might also be caused by changes in a heart valve that can be corrected through heart valve surgery. And if she’s experiencing an irregular or accelerated heart rate, a pacemaker can help to regulate heart rates or make sure both chambers of the heart contract together.
Those diagnosed with early heart failure can benefit from certain lifestyle changes and medications that can improve heart function before surgery becomes necessary. In addition to being monitored by your doctor, knowing your own body can help slow the progression of heart failure. Salt and excess fluids put additional pressure on your heart, as do changes in heart rate, pulse, blood pressure and weight.
People with diagnosed heart failure should avoid alcohol and smoking, get plenty of rest, participate in a physician-approved exercise plan, and eat a heart-healthy diet to keep weight and cholesterol in check. A doctor may also prescribe medications to help the heart muscle pump better; reduce the risk for blood clots; improve cholesterol; expand blood vessels or lower heart rate to lessen stress on the heart; and rid the body of fluids and sodium that can tax the heart.