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Heart and Vascular

Heart Failure

Heart Failure is a condition that occurs when the heart does not pump enough oxygen, nutrition, and blood flow to the body's vital organs. The weakened heart cannot pump blood efficiently. This may lead to a back-up of fluid into the lungs, legs or abdomen. The weakening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) can cause heart failure to develop. With early diagnosis and treatment, heart failure can be prevented or slowed.

Heart Failure Program

Heart Failure Risk Factors

The more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing heart failure. The main risk factors for heart failure are:

  • Coronary artery disease (blockage of arteries) and past heart attacks, which may weaken the heart muscle, are the most common causes.
  • High blood pressure. Good blood pressure control can prevent heart failure.
  • Valvular heart disease (bad valves). Leaky or tight heart valves may lead to heart weakening.
  • Heart rhythm disorders, such as atrial fibrillation.
  • Drugs such as chemotherapy medicines, alcohol or illegal drugs may cause heart failure. All patients with heart failure must abstain from alcohol and illegal drug use.
  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes. Maintaining sugar control decreases risk.
  • Obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight decreases risk.
  • Genetic (family-related) factors may play a role.
  • A virus can sometimes cause heart failure.

Heart Failure Symptoms

People with heart failure typically experience an increase in symptoms as the heart becomes weaker and less able to pump blood through the body. Signs of heart failure include:

  • Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet due to excess fluid
  • Weight gain, stomach bloating, and decreased appetite due to excess fluid
  • Increased shortness of breath due to excess fluid
  • Coughing due to excess fluid
  • Unable to lie flat due to excess fluid
  • Waking up short of breath due to excess fluid
  • Fatigue due to reduced blood supply to the organs and muscles
  • Poor exercise tolerance
  • Dizziness or "blackouts"

Heart Failure Screening and Diagnosis

To determine whether you have heart failure, below are commonly diagnostic tests your healthcare team may order:

  • Laboratory blood work: To check drug levels, chemistry and blood counts
  • Prothrombin Time (INR): To monitor blood thinning from warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Chest X-ray: To evaluate fluid in the lungs
  • Echocardiogram: To evaluate how well the heart pumps and valves function
  • Exercise Stress Testing: To evaluate coronary artery blockages
  • Cardiac Catheterization: To evaluate coronary artery blockages, heart pressures and blood flow to vital organs
  • Cardiopulmonary Stress Testing (VO2): To evaluate exercise tolerance and effectiveness of medicines

Heart Failure Treatment Options

Because heart failure is caused by damage to the heart over a period of time, it cannot be cured. However, the symptoms of heart failure can be treated to improve a patient's quality of life and survival. Doylestown Health's Heart Failure program offers a wide-array of treatment and evaluation options, including:x

Post Care and Prevention for Heart Failure

While there is no cure for heart failure, there are recommendations for managing the condition. It is important to consult your healthcare providers before making any lifestyle changes.

Tips for Managing Heart Failure

Additional Resources and Guidelines

Doylestown Health Related Services

For more information contact the Heart Failure Coordinator at 215.345.2917.

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