Conditions & Symptoms
Causes and Symptoms of Heart Failure
Heart failure is a chronic condition that can have various causes. It often results from diseases that damage, weaken, or stiffen the heart muscles. These conditions may include:
- Coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- Damaged heart valves
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)
- Congenital heart disease
Heart Failure Treatments
Heart failure is a serious disease that typically requires lifelong treatment. We will work with you to develop a treatment plan that improves your symptoms and your quality of life. The right heart failure treatments for you will depend on the severity of your disease.
Heart failure treatments can range from making lifestyle changes, such as eating less salt and limiting fluid intake, to having a procedure, such as a defibrillator or a pacemaker implantation.
For most people, heart failure treatment involves a balance of the right medications, lifestyle modification, and regular medical management.
Your recovery time will vary based on which procedure you have.
After coronary angioplasty with stent insertion, you should be able to resume most normal activity after a week. Avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting until you feel completely better.
For an ICD implantation, you should refrain from heavy lifting and vigorous activity in the month after the procedure. Avoid putting pressure on the implantation site.
There are many types of heart valve repair and replacement. Your recovery period will depend on which type of heart valve surgery you get. It is typically around 4-8 weeks. Your doctor will let you know when you're able to return to your normal activities.
More on Heart Failure
Symptoms of Heart Failure
As heart failure has various stages, symptoms can range depending on the severity of your disease. They may evolve over time. Symptoms of heart failure include:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent cough or wheezing
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet
- Swelling of the abdomen
Tests Used to Diagnose Heart Failure
There are several tests we may use to diagnose heart failure. They include:
- Blood test: If you’re experiencing heart failure, there are certain markers that will show up the results.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test records the electrical activity of your heart and can show abnormalities.
- Echocardiogram: This ultrasound scan uses sound waves to examine your heart.
Medications to Control Symptoms of Heart Failure
We may also prescribe medications to control your symptoms, which can include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: These drugs relax blood vessels to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to decrease the strain on your heart.
- Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs): Although they provide many of the same benefits, these drugs may be an option for people who can't tolerate ACE inhibitors.
- Beta blockers: Beta blockers may reduce signs and symptoms of heart failure and improve your heart’s function by slowing your heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
- Diuretics. Often called water pills, diuretics keep fluid from collecting in your body. They will make you urinate more often and can also decrease fluid in your lungs so you can breathe more easily.
- Blood Thinners: These medications prevent blood clots from forming. They do not break up clots that you already have.
Procedures to Reduce the Risk of Heart Failure
A procedure may be necessary to help improve your heart’s functioning. Which one is right for you will depend on what underlying conditions are causing your heart failure. We may suggest one or more of the following procedures to reduce your risk of future complications:
- Coronary angioplasty with stent insertion: This minimally-invasive procedure balloon catheter to open up your arteries to improve blood flow. Placing a stent helps your artery stay open.
- Coronary artery bypass graft surgery: In this surgery, we use a blood vessel from another part of the body to create a new path so blood can flow to your heart. It is usually reserved for those with several severely blocked arteries.
- Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD): An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) monitors your heart and sends an electric shock to stabilize your heart rate when needed.
- Heart valve repair or replacement: When a diseased heart valve is causing your heart failure, we may suggest heart valve repair or replacement surgery.