Is Congestive Heart Failure Treatable?
Learning that you or a loved one has congestive heart failure is scary. Does this mean that the heart is failing? Will your life be cut short? Are there treatment options available?
Nearly 6 million Americans are affected by heart failure, with 670,000 cases diagnosed each year. It is the leading cause of hospitalization in people 65 and older. Heart failure does not mean that the heart has stopped working, but it does mean that it’s not working as well.
What Happens with Heart Failure?
In people with heart failure, blood moves through the heart at a slower rate. As a result, not enough oxygen and nutrients get through the body, causing the heart to stretch to hold more blood. The heart walls can weaken over time and stop pumping blood efficiently. The kidneys then respond by retaining fluids, which is why people with congestive heart failure often have swollen ankles and feet.
As scary as congestive heart failure sounds, it is not a death sentence. In fact, with the right treatment, you or a loved one may be able to bounce back and make a full recovery.
What Causes Heart Failure?
Heart failure can be caused by any condition that places stress on the heart muscle such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, kidney disease, thyroid disease, high blood pressure and others. Symptoms can be mild to severe and include fluid in the lungs, water retention, dizziness, fatigue, weakness and an irregular heartbeat.
Your doctor can diagnose congenital heart failure based on your symptoms and a number of tests, including blood tests, a chest x-ray, an echocardiogram and a stress test. The good news is that there are more treatments available than ever before.
Understanding Your Treatment Options
The first line of defense is a strict schedule of medications and lifestyle changes. Your treatment depends on what stage of heart failure you are in as well as its underlying cause. In general, here are the best ways to respond to heart failure:
- Quit smoking
- Limit drinking
- Treat high blood pressure
- Treat lipid disorders
- Take beta blockers (if you have high blood pressure or have had a heart attack)
- Take an ACE inhibitor or ARB (if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or coronary artery disease)
- Restrict salt intake
- Monitor weight
Building a Team of Doctors, Nurses and Home Health Professionals
Congestive heart failure is very serious if not treated. Fortunately, treatment is available and comes in many forms. To ensure that you or your family member gets the best care possible, put together a team of doctors that are all on the same page.