“When [people] hear the word heart failure, [they] get panicked that there's nothing we can do to save their life,” says Michelle W. Bloom, MD, cardio-oncologist at Stony Brook Medical Center. “The reality is, we have many different types of medications, different classes of medications, that we use to treat heart failure.”
While you can’t “undo” or “cure” heart failure, you can treat it and live well with the condition. Doctors have three key goals in the management of heart failure, according to Dr. Bloom: prolonging life, reducing hospital admissions, and reducing heart failure symptoms to help patients feel better.
To achieve these goals, doctors have a number of treatments for heart failure available:
ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
Angiotensin receptor blocker therapy
Diuretics, or “water pills”
And vasodilators, such as hydralazine and nitrates.
New Treatment Options for Heart Failure
Two new treatments have been approved to treat heart failure: angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitors (ARNIs), and I(f) channel inhibitors.
“Angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitor therapy is actually a combination of two different medications in one pill,” says Dr. Bloom. “One part is an angiotensin receptor blocker, so it relaxes the heart muscle and the blood vessels surrounding the heart, and it helps the heart to pump forward in a more smooth and more effective direction.”
“The second part actually utilizes a hormone system in the heart, relaxing blood vessels, helping the body get rid of salt and water,” says Dr. Bloom.
I(f) channel blockers, on the other hand, slow down the heart rate by acting on a receptor channel in the heart. This medication is approved for patients who either “can't tolerate a beta blocker, or even if they're taking a beta blocker, they still have symptoms where they need their heart rate to be slowed down,” says Dr. Bloom.
“We have so many success stories in heart failure management. It's the reason I go to work every day,” says Dr. Bloom. “If you're part of a good medical team, and you and your doctor work together toward tailoring your therapy, we can make people live longer, we can make people feel better, we can get people back to their regular, everyday lives.”