Heart Failure is a serious condition in which your heart fails to pump blood sufficient enough to meet your body’s oxygen needs. It is also called as congestive cardiac failure, right side heart failure, left side heart failure or cor pulmonale. Heart Failure occurs when the heart cannot relax properly to fill in enough blood (right-sided heart failure) or cannot contract properly to pump out enough oxygen-rich blood (left-sided heart failure) or due to a combination of both problems (congestive heart failure).
Right-sided heart failure is a result of high blood pressure in pulmonary arteries (arteries taking blood from heart to lung) is called cor pulmonale.
Heart failure occurs due to conditions that either damage or tire the heart or cardiac muscles.
Early diagnosis and treatment improve the lifespan and quality of life.The diagnosis is made on the basis of medical and family history, physical examination and certain tests.
Your doctor would like to know if you or any family member has a history of heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. You will be asked to explain your symptoms in detail, when they started, how they progressed etc. Do your best to answer the questions to the best of your ability.
During the physical examination, your doctor will:
There is no single test specific for heart failure. After taking your medical and family history and physical exam, your doctor may ask for one or more of the following tests:Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG): This simple test helps record your heartbeat. It tells the doctor about irregular heartbeats, fast beats, previous heart attacks, and problem in the conduction of impulses in the heart. Chest X-Ray: This can show a large heart or fluid in lungs. It can also tell the doctor if you have a lung disease. B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) Blood Test: BNP is a hormone whose level rises during heart failure. The test can also be done to monitor progress of treatment. Echocardiography (ECHO): This is like an ultrasound of heart where your doctor can see your moving heart. This test tells your doctor about the size of heart and its chambers, the thickness of the walls of the artery, contraction of heart, mixing of blood, previous heart attack, force of blood flow etc. Doppler Ultrasound: This test gives the speed and direction of blood flow. Holter Monitor: A machine with leads or electrodes will be attached to your chest to record your heartbeat. The recorder can be kept in a pocket or slung over your neck. You have to wear it for 24-48 hours while you go about your normal routine. Stress Test: If you are capable of running on a treadmill, your doctor may take you up for this to examine how your heart behaves under stress. The test is often followed up with ECHO and nuclear heart scans. Nuclear Heart Scan: This shows the amount of oxygen-rich blood reaching your heart muscles and identifies areas which do not receive the blood. Coronary Angiography: Your doctor may ask for this test if he suspects a block in the heart arteries. A dye is injected through a tube placed in the blood vessel of your groin or arm and taken up to your heart. The doctor can see the flow of the dye on a screen in front of him. Other tests: These may include blood sugar, thyroid, liver and kidney function tests
The treatment of heart failure is aimed at keeping the symptoms in check and preventing worsening of the condition. The treatment includes medication, lifestyle changes, and other treatments.
Your doctor will prescribe medications depending on your symptoms and results of your tests. Please take the medications as prescribed. Do not miss doses and do not self-medicate. If you feel the medication is not suiting you, please inform your doctor immediately.
Simple lifestyle changes along with medications will help you dramatically improve your symptoms and lead a better quality of life.
A Heart Healthy Diet: You can ask the dietician in your heath care team to make customized diet plans for you. Otherwise you can follow these simple tips.
Since you have excess fluid in your body and you may be on water pills, it is important to drink only as much fluid as allowed. Drinking too much or too less may worsen your symptoms. Avoid alcohol completely.