Heart Failure: Diagnosis, Prevention and Management, Treatments and Medications, and Surgery.

 

 

This is the last piece in this three-part article on Heart Failure, Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest. Our readers would have noticed that we streamlined the part two and three to Heart failure to enable us deal with specifics and also allow the readers to glean as much information as possible to help make better choices, understand the topic or help those in need of information like the one discussed in the articles. We hope the initial articles were helpful and allowed you gain a little more knowledge on the important topic reviewed.

This is the third of the three-part article.

Keeping with the theme of the original articles, this is going to be succinct and straight to the topic to be discussed. We will exclusively use these explanations as compiled by Christian Nordqvist with additional information in other places. These are easily understandable points that could help our lifestyle and how well we can also be of help to those who suffer from any heart ailment.

Here we go.

Diagnosis

Most people will initially see their doctor if they have symptoms. The doctor will discuss the symptoms with the patient. If the doctor suspects heart failure, he will recommend further tests, these may include:

Blood and urine tests – these will check the patient’s blood count and liver, thyroid, and kidney function. The doctor may also want to check the blood for specific chemical markers of heart failure.

Chest X-ray – an X-ray will show whether the heart is enlarged. It will also show whether there is fluid in the lungs.

An ECG (electrocardiogram) – this device records the electrical activity and rhythms of the patient’s heart. The test may also reveal any damage to the heart from a heart attack. Heart attacks are often the underlying cause of heart failure.

An echocardiogram – this is an ultrasound scan that checks the pumping action of the patient’s heart. The doctor measures the percentage of blood pumped out of the patient’s left ventricle (the main pumping chamber) with each heartbeat – this measurement is called the ejection fraction.

The doctor may also carry out the following additional tests:

Stress test – the aim here is to stress the heart and study it. The patient may have to use a treadmill or exercise machine or take a medication that stresses the heart.

Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan – they can measure ejection fraction as well as the heart arteries and valves. They can also determine whether the patient had a heart attack.

B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) blood test – BNP is released into the blood if the heart is overfilled and struggling to function properly.

Angiogram (coronary catheterization) – a catheter (thin, flexible tube) is introduced into a blood vessel until it goes through the aorta into the patient’s coronary arteries. The catheter usually enters the body at the groin or arm. A dye is injected through the catheter into the arteries. This dye stands out on an X-ray and helps doctors detect coronary artery disease (arteries to the heart that have narrowed) – another cause of heart failure.

 

Prevention and management

Giving up smoking is a way to reduce the likelihood of heart failure or slow its progression.

There are many lifestyle changes that reduce the chances of developing heart failure, or at least slow down its progression. These include:

  • Give up smoking.
  • Eat sensibly, this includes plenty of fruit and vegetable, good quality fats, unrefinedcarbohydrates, whole grains, and the right number of daily
  • Exercise regularly and stay physically active (check with your doctor).
  • Keepblood pressure
  • Maintain a healthybody weight.
  • Quit alcohol, or at least consume alcohol within thenational recommended limits.
  • Get at least 7 hours good quality sleep each night.
  • Mental stress may be bad for the heart over the long-term. Try to find ways of reducing exposure to mental stress.
  • Individuals who already have heart failure should be up-to-date with their vaccinations, and have a yearlyflu shot.

Treatments

Damage to the heart’s pumping action caused by heart failure cannot be repaired. Nevertheless, current treatments can significantly improve the quality of life of the patient by keeping the condition under control and helping relieve many of the symptoms.

Treatment also focuses on treating any conditions that may be causing the heart failure, which in turn lessens the burden on the heart. A doctor or cardiologist will discuss treatment options with the patient and suggest the best choices, depending on individual circumstances.

Some common treatments for heart failure include:

Medications

  • ACE inhibitors (inhibitors of Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme)– these drugs help the arteries relax, lower blood pressure, making it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body – they lower the heart’s workload. Ace inhibitors generally boost the performance of the heart and invariably improve the quality of life of the heart failure patient. These drugs are unsuitable for some patients, though. They can cause an irritating cough in some people.
  • Diuretics– these help patients with swollen ankles. They also relieve breathlessness caused by heart failure. Diuretics remove water and salt from the kidneys in the urine. There are three main types of diuretics – loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics, and potassium-sparing diuretics.
  • Anticoagulants– these drugs make it harder for the blood to clot; they help thin the blood and help prevent a  The most commonly used anticoagulant is Warfarin. However, it has to be carefully monitored by the doctor to ensure the blood thinning effect is not excessive, and it will only be used if you have another reason to thin your blood. There have been a lot of studies on this discussion point. Most point toward no anticoagulation in patients without a diagnosis of afibrilation with or without another indication.
  • Digoxin– a drug for patients with a fast-irregular heart rhythm. Digoxin slows down the heartbeat.
  • Beta-blockers– all heart failure patients benefit from beta-blockers.
  • Antiplatelet medicine– these stop the blood platelets from forming clots in the blood Aspirin is an antiplatelet drug and can be considered in certain patient populations. Patients who take low-dose aspirin for heart failure will need to continue taking it for the rest of their life.

 

Surgery

Not everybody with heart failure responds to drug treatment. There are some surgical options: Coronary artery bypass graft – this is the most common surgery for congestive heart failure that has been caused by coronary artery disease.

Heart valve surgery – to repair a defective valve that leads to increased heart work.

Implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD) – for patients who have not responded to other treatments, and are hospitalized, this can help the heart pump blood. It is often used for individuals who are waiting for a transplant.

Heart transplant – if no other treatments or surgeries help, transplant is the final option. Transplants are only considered if the patient is healthy other than the problem with their heart.

 

written by Debo Adegube

Heart Failure: Diagnosis, Prevention and Management, Treatments and Medications, and Surgery.

About The Author
- Founder of Cardiac Community

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