Despite the way, it sounds the term “Heart Failure” simply means that your heartbeat isn’t pumping blood as it should. Heart failure doesn’t mean your heart has stopped working or that you are having a heart attack (but people with heart failure often had a heart attack in the past), Heart failure is also called Congestive heart failure (CHF).

“Congestive” means fluid is building up in the body because the heat isn’t pumping properly.

The common symptoms are Shortness of breath (perhaps while walking or climbing stairs), Shortness of breath when lying down flat in the bed, Waking up at night following breathlessness, General tiredness,  weakness, swelling of the legs usually around ankles and feet, Rapid weight gain (1 or 2 pounds a day for 3 days in a row), Chronic cough, a racing heartbeat even while resting.

So if you have these symptoms especially if you have had a heart problem before your need to contact your doctor immediately.

What tests will the patient need?
If heart failure is suspected based on the medical history, symptoms and physical examination the following tests are done.

ECG: To detect abnormal rhythm and evidence of heart attack in the past.

Echo Cardiography
Echo is often used to make sure of the diagnosis. An echo is a test that causes no pain. A probe is moved across the surface of the chest. It sends sound waves that allow getting pictures of the heart, this will tell how well the heart is pumping and how your heart valves are working.
BNP-Blood test levels are high in patients with heart failure
Cardiac catheterization or coronary angiography to show whether any of the arteries in your heart are narrowed or blocked

Treatments Needed
Much can be done to improve the heart’s pumping and to treat the symptoms, address the precipitating causes of heart failure and later address the underlying disease.
Take your medicines even if you feel well and watch for changes in your symptoms

Supportive Treatments Includes
Diet – Reduce the amount of salt you eat and the amount of fluid you drink

Alcohol– Decrease alcohol consumption, for women, not more than once per day and for men not more than twice (excess consumption can lead to cardiomyopathy.)

Exercise– If you are overweight, your heart needs to work extra hard to keep up with your body needs

Stop smoking

  • Check with your doctor before taking any new medicines
  • Medicines commonly used are ACE inhibitors which help to dilate your arteries and lower blood pressure, improving blood flow
  • Diuretics are often called “water pills” they make the patient urinate more often and help keep fluid from building up in your body, they decrease the fluid that collects in the lungs and this helps you to breathe better
  • Beta-blockers can improve blood pressures and heart rate control
  • Digoxin (also called digitalis) helps the heart pump better
  • You might need to take other medicines if you have other problems

Other Treatments include
Devices help the heart pump with more force to beat at the right rhythm – CRT or CRTD
Surgery to improve blood flow to the heart or replace the heart (HEART TRANSPLANTATION)

Frequency of visits to the doctor:
At first, you may need to be seen as often as every week to check how you are adjusting to the medicine. Once you are feeling better, you may need to be seen less often.

“Quit alcohol and smoking it’s never too late, just begin to love yourself.”

Dr. Alluri Srinivas Raju
Consultant Cardiologist