Experts estimate that nearly 6.2 million adults in the United States have heart failure. Heart failure is characterized by the difficulty of the heart pumping an adequate amount of blood throughout your body. As time progresses, heart failure, and a failure to adequately supply tissues with enough blood, can cause serious complications and even death.
A diagnosis of heart failure can be difficult to hear, but it is important to understand there are actions you can take to help. Below is a closer look at heart failure, the different types of heart failure, and how it may be treated.
Heart failure is a disease where the heart can no longer keep up with its normal workload. When a heart is unable to pump an adequate amount of blood, this means that peripheral tissues may begin to have reduced access to nutrients and oxygen, which are necessary for them to function adequately.
While heart failure is typically thought of as a single chronic condition, it is a blanket term utilized to describe a wide range of heart insufficiencies. Below is a closer look at the different types of heart failure and how they differ.
If you have ever gotten your blood pressure taken, you are likely familiar with the concept of systolic and diastolic. As a refresher, systolic is the top number in your blood pressure reading and correlates with the maximum pressure your blood vessels undergo. This maximum pressure is achieved every time the heart contracts its larger chamber, known as the left ventricle.
Systolic heart failure, also referred to as heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), occurs when heart function is impaired such that the heart is unable to adequately contract the heart muscles during systole to force blood out of the chamber of the heart and into the body.
This tends to be caused by weakened heart muscles but can be caused by various factors, including chronic high blood pressure, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), coronary artery disease, and even heart attack.
Systolic pressure is the maximum pressure exerted on your blood vessels during a contraction, and diastolic is the minimum pressure exerted during ventricular relaxation, known as diastole.
Diastolic heart failure is unique in that the reduced efficiency of the heart isn’t caused by weakened heart muscles but is rather caused by ventricles that are unable to fully relax.
To pump a sufficient amount of blood through the heart, you need a strong contraction of the ventricles and adequate muscle relaxation to allow blood to fill the heart chambers.
Diastolic heart failure and stiffening of the cardiac muscles can be caused by chronic hypertension, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, and obesity.
It is important to understand the differences between right and left-sided heart failure when talking about heart failure. Left-sided heart failure is the most typical form of heart failure and it can often lead to heart failure on the right side.
The left side of the heart is part of the systemic circulatory system. It is the job of the left side of the heart to receive oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pump it with enough force to reach all of your tissues. The right side of the heart receives unoxygenated blood from the tissues and pumps it into the lungs to be reoxygenated. The steps of the right side of the heart are a part of the pulmonary circuit of your circulatory system.
When the heart starts going into left-sided heart failure, it starts to create back pressure that over time can begin to damage the right side of the heart. Damage to the right side of the heart can also be caused by lung diseases like COPD, which increase the strain on the right side of the heart.
Right-sided heart failure tends to lead to a backup of blood in your veins which may cause edema to your extremities and fluid retention. Other common symptoms include bulging neck veins and difficulty breathing.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) refers to insufficiencies of the heart that cause blood to become backed up and congested within the body. In a typical person without heart failure, the heart is able to pump 5-6 liters of blood every minute. When the pumping capacity becomes impaired, fluids can accumulate and cause swelling.
Some common symptoms of congestive heart failure include edema to the lower legs, weight gain, shortness of breath, and bloating.
While there are many types of heart failure, they all represent an insufficiency of the heart, which plays a vital role in your health. A vast majority of heart failures undergo a similar disease progression, and the earlier these heart insufficiencies or risk factors are identified, the more effective interventions may be.
Below is a closer look at some of the first indicators of heart failure as well as how fast it can progress in heart failure patients.
Some of the common first symptoms of heart failure include fatigue, reduced level of activity, edema in the legs, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can go largely undetected, especially in individuals over the age of 60, as these symptoms may be interpreted as simply a sign of aging.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek the care of your primary care provider, who may refer you to a cardiologist to determine whether or not heart failure may be to blame. If caught in the early stages, there are several things you can do to help slow the progression and support your heart.
Heart failure has two kinds of progression. Acutely presenting heart failure typically occurs after a pulmonary or cardiac event. In contrast, chronic heart failure occurs due to compounding conditions that result in wear and tear on the heart over time.
The exact timing of progression can vary significantly based on factors like your current health condition, the type of heart failure you have, the presence of compounding health problems, and age.
Your cardiologist may be able to shed some light on your specific heart condition and may recommend healthy lifestyle changes to help slow or even halt the progression of heart failure. These could include making dietary changes, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise.
Heart failure is a chronic progressive disease with no definitive cure. However, there are treatments available that can help slow or halt the further progression of heart failure.
Below is a closer look at some ways that heart failure can be treated.
Medications utilized to help patients with heart failure tend to revolve around reducing the amount of strain placed on the heart. Some medications often prescribed include ACE inhibitors, diuretics, and beta blockers to reduce the strain placed on the heart.
Many individuals with heart failure are referred by their doctor to a cardiac rehab program to help support their cardiovascular health. Cardiac rehabilitation is a program that tends to include health education for living a healthier lifestyle, mental health services, and monitored exercise. These programs can have a profound effect on heart health and can help individuals to feel better and have a higher quality of life.
Carda Health takes cardiac rehabilitation into the 21st century by offering a full rehab program from the comfort of your own home. No need to drive to a rehab facility as Carda offers you the flexibility to get a full cardiac rehab session in your own home.
The Carda health program works in four easy steps, and it all starts with a free online assessment. If you are eligible for cardiac therapy, you will meet your physiologist, get your remote monitoring equipment in the mail, and begin your tailored program.
Surgery may be another treatment option for people with select heart problems. Individuals that have had a heart attack and suffered a reduced blood supply to the heart may undergo coronary bypass surgery to restore blood flow to the heart. Additionally, individuals with heart failure that is attributed to a heart valve malfunction may be able to undergo a procedure to rectify it.
Some other surgical interventions for heart failure include heart transplant surgery, the implantation of a ventricular assist device, or the placement of a pacemaker for abnormal heart rhythms.
At the end of the day, heart failure is not something to be taken lightly, as there is no single cure for a heart that cannot meet the body's demands. The best chance at slowing or stopping the progression of heart failure is to get help sooner rather than later and to take a multifaceted approach to support your heart.
Getting on a treatment plan with your physician, enrolling in a cardiac rehab program, and making every effort to live the healthiest lifestyle you can is the best shot at reducing the strain on your heart and living a fruitful life.