Heart Disease and Congestive Heart Failure
How Can I Prevent Further Heart Damage?
In an effort to prevent further heart damage:
What Medications Should I Avoid if I Have Heart Failure?
There are several different types of medications that are best avoided in those with heart failure including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Motrin or Aleve. For relief of aches, pains, or fever take Tylenol instead.
- Some antiarrhythmic agents
- Most calcium channel blockers (if you have systolic heart failure)
- Some nutritional supplements, such as salt substitutes, and growth hormone therapies
- Antacids that contain sodium (salt)
- Decongestants such as Sudafed
If you are taking any of these drugs, discuss them with your doctor.
It is important to know the names of your medications, what they are used for, and how often and at what times you take them. Keep a list of your medications and bring them with you to each of your doctor visits. Never stop taking your medications without discussing it with your doctor. Even if you have no symptoms, your medications decrease the work of your heart so that it can pump more effectively.
How Can I Improve My Quality of Life With Heart Failure?
There are several things you can do to improve your quality of life if you have heart failure. Among them:
- Eat a healthy diet. Limit your consumption of sodium (salt) to less than 2,000 milligrams (2 grams) each day. Eat foods high in fiber. Limit foods high in trans fat, cholesterol, and sugar. Reduce total daily intake of calories to lose weight if necessary.
- Exercise regularly. A regular cardiovascular exercise program, prescribed by your doctor, will help improve your strength and make you feel better. It may also decrease heart failure progression.
- Don't overdo it. Plan your activities and include rest periods during the day. Certain activities, such as pushing or pulling heavy objects and shoveling may worsen heart failure and its symptoms.
- Prevent respiratory infections. Ask your doctor about flu and pneumonia vaccines.
- Take your medications as prescribed. Do not stop taking them without first contacting your doctor.
- Get emotional or psychological support if needed. Heart failure can be difficult for your whole family. If you have questions, ask your doctor or nurse. If you need emotional support, social workers, psychologists, clergy, and heart failure support groups are a phone call away. Ask your doctor or nurse to point you in the right direction.
Can Surgery Be Used to Treat Heart Failure?
In heart failure, surgery may sometimes prevent further damage to the heart and improve the heart's function. Procedures used include:
- Coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. The most common surgery for heart failure caused by coronary artery disease is bypass surgery. Although surgery is more risky for people with heart failure, new strategies before, during, and after surgery have reduced the risks and improved outcomes.
- Heart valve surgery. Diseased heart valves can be treated both surgically (traditional heart valve surgery) and non-surgically (balloon valvuloplasty).
- Implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The LVAD is known as the "bridge to transplantation" for patients who haven't responded to other treatments and are hospitalized with severe systolic heart failure. This device helps your heart pump blood throughout your body. It allows you to be mobile, sometimes returning home to await a heart transplant. It may also be used as destination therapy for long-term support in patients who are not eligible for transplant.
- Heart transplant. A heart transplant is considered when heart failure is so severe that it does not respond to all other therapies, but the person's health is otherwise good.