If you have heart failure, you've got a lot of choices for treatment. Your doctor may suggest you start with medication and changes to your lifestyle. If your condition gets worse, you can turn to centers that specialize in treating heart failure for more options, like surgery.
It's important to keep up with your medications and take them the way your doctor tells you to. Common types of drugs that treat heart failure are:
- Aldosterone inhibitors
- ACE inhibitors
- ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers)
- ARNIs (angiotensin receptor-neprilysin inhibitors)
- Blood vessel dilators
- Calcium channel blockers (unless you have systolic heart failure)
The goal of surgery is to make your heart work better.
Bypass surgery. This operation routes blood around a blocked artery.
Heart valve surgery. As heart failure gets worse, the valves that normally help direct the flow of blood through your heart may no longer completely close, which allows blood to flow backward. A surgeon can repair or replace the valves.
Infarct exclusion surgery (modified Dor or Dor procedure). When a heart attack happens in the left ventricle (the lower left chamber of your heart), a scar forms. The scarred area is thin and can bulge out with each beat, forming what's called an aneurysm. A heart surgeon can remove it.
Left ventricular assist device (LVAD). This procedure helps your heart pump blood through your body. It allows you to be mobile and independent.
Heart transplant. This is done when heart failure is so severe that it doesn't respond to any other treatments.
How Can I Keep My Heart Failure From Getting Worse?
Monitor your symptoms. Check for changes in how much fluid builds up in your body by weighing yourself every day. Check for swelling, too.
See your doctor regularly. He'll make sure that you are staying healthy and that your heart failure isn't getting worse. Your doctor will ask to review your weight record and list of medications.
If you have questions, write them down and bring them with you to your appointment. Call your doctor if you have urgent questions.
Tell all the doctors you see about your heart failure, the medications you take, and any restrictions you have. Also, tell your heart doctor about any new drugs that are prescribed by another doctor.
How Can I Prevent Further Damage?
- If you smoke or chew tobacco, quit.
- Keep to a healthy weight.
- Control your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don't drink alcohol.
Your Heart Failure To-Do List
Eat a healthy diet. Limit the salt you eat to less than 1,500 milligrams each day. Eat foods high in fiber and potassium. Cut back on things that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar. If you need to drop some weight, reduce the number of calories you eat.
Exercise regularly. A regular program that's OK'd by your doctor will improve your symptoms and strength and make you feel better. It may also slow your heart failure.
Don't overdo it. Plan out your activities and include rest periods during the day.
Prevent lung infections. Ask your doctor about flu and pneumonia vaccines.
Take your medications as prescribed. Don't stop taking them without first asking your doctor. Even if you have no symptoms, the drugs help your heart pump better.
Get emotional or psychological support, if you need it. Don't face things alone. Get the backing you need from social workers, psychologists, clergy, and support groups. Ask your doctor to point you in the right direction.
Be the Star of Your Team
It takes a team to manage heart failure, and you are the key player. Your heart doctor will prescribe your medications and manage other medical problems. Other team members, including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise specialists, and social workers, will also lend a hand. But it's up to you to take your medicine, change your diet, live a healthy lifestyle, keep your follow-up appointments, and be an active member of the team.