In the course of heart failure, the heart loses its ability to keep up with its workload within the body. Blood is not pumped efficiently throughout the body, affecting bodily systems like the brain and kidneys. Heart failure is a progressive condition for which there is no cure. Treatments and solutions are available to help heart failure patients live normal and fulfilling lives for as long as possible. Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, a heart surgeon from Houston, explains heart failure and describes the different types of the condition.
Basics of Heart Failure
When people breathe, they add oxygen to their blood. This oxygenated blood moves to the heart, where it is distributed to the body’s tissues with each heartbeat. Heart failure slows the rate at which blood oxygen is distributed throughout the body. This can result in serious complications for all bodily systems.
In the beginning stages of heart failure, the body works hard to compensate for the heart’s lack of power. Blood pressure rises, making the blood move at a higher rate through the body. The heart muscle builds mass in hopes of beating more strongly. The heart beats faster to make up for the lack of power in each beat. This compensation means that patients are often not aware that they are in heart failure until the body has lost its ability to keep up.
The body also diverts blood from the kidneys, heart, and brain to make up for the lost power. This can cause damage to various areas of the body, such as kidney dysfunction.
Symptoms of heart failure then become apparent. Breathing problems, fatigue, and other symptoms may lead a patient to see his or her doctor.
Types of Heart Failure
Left-Sided Heart Failure
In left-sided systolic heart failure, the left ventricle of the heart does not contract properly. The heart then loses the amount of force needed to properly beat and distribute blood to the rest of the body.
In left-sided diastolic heart failure, the heart is unable to relax because the muscle has become stiff. This leads to the heart being unable to refill with blood between beats. This leads to inefficient pumping action.
Right-Sided Heart Failure
Left-sided heart failure frequently leads to right-sided heart failure. When the right side of the heart fails, the oxygen-depleted blood is not able to pump back into the lungs with as much force and efficiency. Right-sided heart failure leads to swelling and congestion in the ankles and legs. It also causes abdominal swelling in the liver and gastrointestinal tract.
Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is sometimes used as a catch-all term for the condition as a whole. Congestive heart failure is caused by the weaker beat and less efficient passage of blood through the body. Blood that is being returned to the heart becomes congested, leading to swelling in the ankles, legs, and other parts of the body. This fluid can also collect in the lungs and lead to shortness of breath.
Prevention and Treatment of Heart Failure
One of the most important ways to prevent heart failure is reducing blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart failure. Patients can reduce their high blood pressure with medication or lifestyle changes. A proper diet and reduction of obesity are also very helpful in preventing heart failure.
Unfortunately, most people with heart failure do not see any measurable symptoms until the condition has become permanent. There are treatments available which can provide symptom relief and increase a patient’s quality of life.
Cardiac rehab is one method of treating heart failure. This program provides patients with safe ways to strengthen their heart through physical conditioning. Cardiac rehab also involves meeting with a dietitian to create heart-healthy meal plans. Counseling to reduce stress may also be involved.
Medications such as ACE inhibitors and channel blockers are available to treat heart failure. These drugs and diuretics help fluid to be removed from the body, easing the strain placed on the body by congestive heart failure.
See Your Doctor Frequently
When you see your doctor frequently, you will be able to spot the signs of heart failure before they become advanced. Starting early treatment is the best way to reduce or even reverse the effects of the condition on your body. Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, an expert heart surgeon, recommends that all patients take care of their health by eating a proper diet, getting regular exercise, and reducing obesity.