Heart Failure: What is it, and what can we do about it?

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Courtesy of DHR Health

Neeti G. Reddy, MD, FACC
Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology
DHR Health Heart Institute

Heart failure happens when the heart muscle starts failing and doesn’t pump blood as it should. When the heart starts failing, fluid starts building up in the lungs. You might feel fine at first, but over time, the heart muscle will continue to weaken without treatment. You will start feeling symptoms, including shortness of breath, weakness, swelling in the legs, rapid or irregular heartbeat, inability to exercise, cough, weight gain, or chest pressure. It is very important to see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms. In the worst-case scenario, the heart can go into cardiac arrest, leading to sudden death.
It is very important to be seen as soon as possible by a heart-failure specialist because early treatment may reverse the condition completely. You will be thoroughly evaluated, including an X-ray of your chest, an EKG, an ultrasound of your heart, and a test that looks at the blood vessels of the heart. This testing will look for the cause of the heart failure.
Once we know the cause, based on your other medical conditions, you will be started on medications. My goal as a heart-failure specialist is to decrease the stress on your heart, decrease your symptoms, and provide the most evidence-based treatment based on current guidelines. Your medications will focus on controlling your blood pressure, the fluid in your body, and your heart rate. Taking these medications regularly will help you control your symptoms.
As a team, we will work with a nutritionist to help you change your diet to add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood and to decrease meat and dairy. We will help you stop smoking and drinking alcohol to prevent any further damage to your heart. It is also very important to stay active and try to maintain a healthy weight. All of these changes are important because they allow me to give you the lowest dose needed of your medications.
Our heart-failure team will stay in close contact with you to monitor any new symptoms or side effects of your medications. Your medical treatment is specifically designed for your type of heart failure and your medical conditions. There are many new advances in the world of heart failure that allow patients to live a normal, symptom-free life, and our goal is to bring that to all patients with heart failure. For more information or to speak to one of our experts, please call DHR Health Heart Institute at 956-362-8420.