Heart Failure - Topic Overview
How is heart failure diagnosed?
Your doctor may
diagnose heart failure based on your symptoms and a physical exam. But you will
need tests to find the cause and type of heart failure so that you can get the
right treatment. These tests may include:
- Blood tests.
- A chest
electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to check your heart's electrical system.
echocardiogram to see the size and shape of your heart
and how well it is pumping.
- Cardiac catheterization to check your heart and its
blood vessels (coronary arteries).
- A stress
test to look for coronary artery disease.
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
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
- Reduce symptoms so you feel better.
These drugs include diuretics (water pills), digoxin, and potassium.
- Treat the cause of your heart
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.