The Complete Picture : Inside out of Heart Failure
What is heart failure? Despite the way it sounds, the term 'heart failure' simply means that your heart...
What is heart failure? Despite the way it sounds, the term "heart failure" simply means that your heart isn't pumping blood as well as it should. Heart failure doesn't mean your heart has stopped working or that you are having a heart attack (but, people with heart failure often have had a heart attack in the past). Heart failure is also called congestive heart failure, or CHF. "Congestive" means fluid is building up in the body because the heart isn't pumping properly.
Medicines to treat heart failure - ACE inhibitors. ACE inhibitors help open (dilate) your arteries and lower your blood pressure, improving blood flow. - Diuretics. Diuretics are often called "water pills" because they make you urinate more often and help keep fluid from building up in your body. They can also decrease fluid that collects in your lungs, which helps you breathe easier. - Beta-blockers. Beta blockers can improve blood flow and may help prevent some heart rhythm problems. - Digoxin. Digoxin (also called digitalis) helps the heart pump better. It may be combined with other medicines. You might need to take other medicines if you have other problems or if you have side effects with any of these medicines. When you're taking medicine for heart failure, you'll need to have blood tests to check your potassium level and kidney function. How often you need blood tests depends on the type and strength of medicine you are taking. Many patients take these medicines without any problems. However, if you have concerns about the medicine or think you may be having side effects, you should talk to your doctor. It's very important that you take your medicine exactly as your doctor says.
How often will I need to see my doctor? At first, you may need to be seen as often as every week to check how you're reacting to the medicine. After your doctor has adjusted your medicine and you're feeling better, you may need to be seen less often.
What you may experience during heart failure
- Shortness of breath (perhaps when walking or climbing stairs)
- Shortness of breath when lying down flat in bedA
- Waking up in the night, feeling suddenly breathlessA
- General tiredness or weaknessA
- Swelling of the legs (usually just the feet or ankles)A
- Rapid weight gain (1 or 2 pounds a day for 3 days in a row)A
- Chronic cough
Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, especially if you've had heart problems before.
What tests will you need?
Your doctor will probably suspect heart failure based on your medical history, symptoms and a physical exam. He or she might also order some the following tests: - Blood tests - Urine tests - Chest x-rayA - Electrocardiogram (also called EKG or ECG)A - Echocardiography - Radionuclide ventriculography
Echocardiography and Radionuclide ventriculography are often used to make sure of the diagnosis. An echocardiogram is a test that causes no pain. A probe is moved across the surface of your chest. It sends out sound waves that allow your doctor to get pictures of your heart. The pictures show your doctor how well your heart is pumping.
Radionuclide ventriculography involves injecting a very small amount of a radioactive substance into your blood. This substance travels to your heart. A special camera or scanner uses the radioactive substance to produce pictures that show your doctor how well your heart is pumping. The radioactive substance is safe and leaves your body completely after the test is finished.
What treatment will you need? Much can be done to improve the heart's pumping and to treat the symptoms, but heart failure can't be completely cured. An important part of treatment is taking care of any underlying problems, such as high blood pressure. Treatment also includes lifestyle changes and medicine. Here are some important things you should talk about with your doctor:
- Diet: You may be told to reduce the amount of salt you eat. You doctor may also tell you to eat a diet low in fat and cholesterol. - Alcohol: You will be advised to drink less alcohol. - Exercise: Most people with heart failure can still exercise, but your doctor will help you decide how much and what kind of exercise you can do. - Weight: Your doctor will tell you if you need to lose weight. - Family support: Your family can be a big help to you, so involve them when possible. - Other sources of support: Your doctor can give you information about support groups. It sometimes helps to talk with other people who have similar problems.
What medicines will I need to take? Different kinds of medicines are used to treat heart failure. You may need one or more medicines, depending on your symptoms. Your doctor will talk about A these medicines with you. It may take a while to find the best medicine for you and the best amount of it.Dr. Sridhar Kasturi Interventional Cardiologist Aware Global Hospitals, L.B. Nagar, HyderabadA Ph: 9959444769