Heart failure occurs when your heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. While there is usually no cure, you can manage your symptoms and lead a fulfilling life with a doctor’s help. Heart failure does not mean your heart does not work anymore. It just means your heart is not working as well as it should. The sooner the heart failure is diagnosed, the better chance of managing it.
Because your heart cannot keep up with its workload when heart failure occurs, it tries other methods to pump more blood. These include:
- Enlarging: When your heart is larger, it can stretch and pump more blood.
- Developing more muscle mass: The contracting cells of the heart become bigger so the heart can pump more strongly for a short amount of time.
- Pumping faster: This can help your heart accomplish more in a shorter amount of time.
Each of these methods is only a temporary solution for your heart and can sometimes lead to other problems. Eventually, the heart just cannot keep up and you may experience the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath: You may have difficulty lying flat and might have to keep your head propped up with pillows while you sleep
- Persistent coughing or wheezing
- Fatigue: You may have trouble performing everyday activities such as shopping or walking
- Lack of appetite
- Confusion or impaired thinking
- Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen
Left untreated, these symptoms can worsen. However, your doctor can give you medications that slow the progression of heart failure. These medications include blood thinners, beta blockers, statins and diuretics.
You can also control your heart failure with lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet, monitoring blood pressure, managing stress, being physically active and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. You can also try surgical options or implantable medical devices.
Even if your heart failure has reached an advanced state, you still have many options for treatment and symptom management. The key is communicating regularly with your doctor.
For more information, call 573-331-3000.