The term “heart failure” is a bit misleading. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped working. “It’s a misnomer,” says Satjit Bhusri, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Heart failure is treatable.”
Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle has become weak and can’t pump blood well enough to meet the body’s needs. Basically, it can’t keep up with its workload. Here’s more about what happens to your heart during heart failure.
After you’re diagnosed with heart failure, your doctor will likely suggest a treatment regimen, which may include a series of lifestyle changes, medications, or devices or surgery. The success of heart failure treatment greatly depends on your commitment to managing the condition by following your doctor's recommendations and making the necessary changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle to give you the highest possible quality of life.
“Heart failure can be heart success,” says Dr. Bhusri. “And it gets to be heart success if you really make it into a life event.”
Treating Heart Failure with Medication
“We use medications in heart failure, both to make symptoms better, but also improve survival with heart failure,” says Michelle Weisfelner Bloom, MD, a cardiologist at Stony Brook University Medical Center.
The same medications used to treat heart disease are used to treat heart failure, but they’re prescribed in more robust amounts, says Dr. Bhusri. The classes of medications routinely used to treat heart failure include:
Lifestyle Modifications for Managing Heart Failure
Patients with mild to moderate heart failure can lead normal, healthy lives. Adjusting your lifestyle can help reduce your heart failure symptoms, slow disease progression, and improve your quality of life. Here are some lifestyle adjustment that can help.
Devices and Surgical Procedures for Heart Failure
“After you’ve been on a series of medications, [we’ll check] to see if the pumping of the heart improved,” says Rachel Bond, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital. “If we notice that the muscle still remains weak, we may suggest that you need a device that’s called a defibrillator. If your heart were to go into an abnormal rhythm, it would ultimately shock you out of it.”
Sometimes, despite doctors’ best efforts to treat heart failure with medication, lifestyle changes, and device therapy (like defibrillators), patients are still hospitalized for their heart failure. “Patients find that their heart failure is really limiting their quality of life,” says Dr. Bloom. “In those situations we tend to escalate care. For example, we start to evaluate patients for more aggressive therapies like a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), or in certain situations a heart transplant.”