The main goals in treating heart failure include:
- Finding a potentially treatable cause and halt or (in certain circumstances) reverse this condition.
- Controlling symptoms and improving the overall outcome using the appropriate therapy.
However, recognizing symptoms of heart failure is the first step in managing and treating heart failure. Early detection can prompt you to seek medical care in a timely manner.
Lifestyle modification is one of the main ways to treat heart failure and includes the following:
- Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Follow a low-sodium diet. You should consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day (refer to nutrition labels). Do not cook with salt or add salt to your food.
- Exercise: consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise routine. It is important to know how well your heart is functioning so you have realistic expectations for your activity level.
- Weigh daily: this is one of the most important ways to detect fluid retention. You should call your physician if you gain more than 2 pounds overnight.
- Fluid restriction: you should consume no more than 2 liters (64 oz.) of fluid per day.
- Take all the medications as they are prescribed by your physician.
Medications are prescribed to improve quality of life, symptoms of congestion, avoid hospital admissions and prevent stroke or heart attack. Your doctor may prescribe any combination of the following types of medications:
- ACE Inhibitors: improve the heart function and efficiency (examples include: Lisinopril/Prinivil, Captopril/Capoten, Enalapril/Vasotec)
- Beta-Blockers: decrease the workload of the heart (examples include: Coreg/Carvedilol, Metorprolol/Toprol)
- Diuretics: work in the kidney to rid body of excess fluid (examples include: Lasix/Furosemide, Aldactone/Spironolactone, Metolazone)
- Digoxin: improves the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively
- “Blood thinners” help prevent heart attack and stroke (may include Aspirin and Coumadin/Warfarin)
Opening Blocked Arteries
If you have blocked coronary (heart) arteries, your physician may advise you to have a Coronary Artery Bypass surgery or a stent or angioplasty (devices to open the blockage).
Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy
Your physician may advise you to have Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT). This is a surgical procedure that includes placing a device in the left upper part of your chest (like a pacemaker) that is designed to synchronize your heart contractions so that your blood is pumped more effectively.
Your physician may refer you to a heart transplant center for evaluation. Not all heart failure patients qualify for a transplant.
Left Ventricular Assist Device
Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) is an implantable heart pump that may be used as a temporary treatment until a heart transplant can be performed. This is used in patients with advanced stages of heart failure.