If you have systolic heart failure, the left ventricle of your heart, which pumps most of the blood, has become weak. This may happen because it's gotten bigger. Since it's larger, the ventricle can't contract the way it should. Because of that, your heart doesn't pump with enough force to push blood throughout your body.
“First of all, heart failure is an unfortunate and inaccurate term,” says Lynne Warner Stevenson, MD, the director of the cardiomyopathy and heart failure program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It usually means that the heart is handicapped, not that it can’t function.”
No one will tell you that heart failure isn’t serious business. It’s certainly a tough pair of words to hear.
“All of the sudden you feel like your life has kind of fallen out from underneath your feet, and that you’re facing this big uncertainty,” Stevenson says. “But it’s not that your life has become uncertain. It’s always been uncertain.
“That doesn’t isolate [you] from all the people around you. Life is uncertain for everybody.”
You can live a productive, fulfilling life with heart failure if you follow a few steps.
1. Don’t become your disease.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your heart failure and your personal struggle with it. But don’t let it define who you are or what you do with your life.
Durant, 27, was diagnosed with heart failure and cardiac sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease of the heart, when she was 23. She had a pacemaker implanted in her chest, and she deals with the realities of her condition every day.
She tries to keep a positive attitude, but when that gets tough, she reaches out to family and friends.
“I would definitely say surrounding yourself with good people makes it a little easier, people that understand kind of what you’re going through,” she says. “And finding a good support group.”
2. Take your medicine.
It may seem obvious, but with heart failure, it's crucial. The sooner you get a handle on it, the better.