It’s a big misconception that heart failure is untreatable. Despite its name, heart failure can be managed in a number of ways to reduce symptoms, prolong life, and keep you out of the hospital.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to heart failure management,” says Michelle W. Bloom, MD, cardio-oncologist at Stony Brook Medical Center. “You would really need to understand your particular situation … in order to really best tailor that therapy to your individual situation.”
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure, your treatment plan may consist of one or more of the following components:
Medications:There are a number of effective medications to treat heart failure available, including beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics.
Lifestyle changes: This includes regulating water and salt intake and monitoring weight, all of which can help reduce symptoms like swelling or shortness of breath. Learn more about lifestyle changes for heart failure here.
Cardiac rehabilitation: This is essentially a safe environment for cardiac patients to return to physical activity under medical supervision.
Implanted devices: When a patient doesn’t respond to traditional therapies, doctors may recommend something like a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which is a pump to support blood flow to the rest of the body. Learn more here about surgical options for heart failure.
Heart transplant: A transplant is only used for advanced heart failure patients. Candidates for heart transplant may have to wait months or years for a new heart to be available, so an LVAD may be implanted during the wait.
Regardless of your heart failure treatment plan, you will be supported by a team of medical experts, including a cardiologist, nurses, electrophysiologists (who specialize in heart rhythm disturbances), surgeons, your primary care doctor, and—perhaps most importantly—you, the patient.
“A diagnosis of heart failure can be overwhelming to anybody,” says Dr. Bloom. “It is so important for patients to feel comfortable and empowered to bring any and all of their concerns to their doctor and their whole heart failure team, so that we can help you live your best life with heart failure.”