Skip to content

Heart Failure Health Center

Font Size

Heart Failure - Topic Overview

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is the best and simplest way to find out if you have heart failure, what type it is, and what is causing it. Your doctor can also use it to see if your heart failure is getting worse.

This test can measure how much blood your heart pumps to your body. This measurement is called the ejection fraction. If your ejection fraction gets lower and you are having more symptoms, it means that your heart failure is getting worse.

How is it treated?

Most people with heart failure need to take several medicines. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to:

  • Help keep heart failure from getting worse. These drugs include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), beta-blockers, and vasodilators like hydralazine and a nitrate.
  • Reduce symptoms so you feel better. These drugs include diuretics (water pills), digoxin, and potassium.
  • Treat the cause of your heart failure.

It is very important to take your medicines exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you don't, your heart failure could get worse.

Pacemaker or defibrillator

You might need to have a pacemaker or a defibrillator (ICD) if you have a problem with your heart rhythm. A pacemaker can help your heart pump blood better. An ICD can prevent a dangerous heart-rhythm problem.

Care at home

Lifestyle changes are an important part of treatment. They can help slow down heart failure. They may also help control other diseases that make heart failure worse, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.

The best steps you can take are to:

  • Eat less sodium. Sodium causes your body to retain water and makes it harder for your heart to pump. Your doctor may also ask you to limit how much fluid you drink.
  • Get regular exercise. Your doctor can tell you what level of exercise is safe for you, how to check your pulse, and how to know if you are doing too much.
  • Take rest breaks during the day.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Even a few pounds can make a difference.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking damages your heart and makes exercise harder to do.
  • Limit alcohol. Ask your doctor how much, if any, is safe.

To stay as healthy as possible, work closely with your doctor. Have all your tests, and go to all your appointments. It is also important to:

  • Talk to your doctor before you take any new medicine, including nonprescription and prescription drugs, vitamins, and herbs. Some of them may make your heart failure worse.
  • Keep track of your symptoms. Weigh yourself at the same time every day, and write down your weight. Call your doctor if you have a sudden weight gain, a change in your ability to exercise, or any sudden change in your symptoms.
1|2|3
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Compressed heart
Article
Salt Shockers
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
Slideshow
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW
 

Mechanical Heart
Article
Omega 3 Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
 
Atrial Fibrillation Guide
Slideshow
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 

Compressed heart
Article
FAQ Heart Failure
Article
 
Cholesterol Confusion
Health Check
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections