Heart failure is a progressive condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. The condition may be caused by hardening of the arteries, a heart attack, high blood pressure or cardiomyopathy. With cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn’t work as well as it should. Heart failure can affect the right side, the left side, or both sides of the heart.
Nearly five million Americans are affected by heart failure. It is the leading cause of hospitalization in people over age 65. Heart failure is a chronic, long-term disease, but it can be managed through medication, lifestyle changes and, in some cases, surgery.
Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Viviana Navas, MD, specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and management of heart failure and stresses the importance of following treatment recommendations.
Diagnosing heart failure
To diagnose heart failure, Dr. Navas reviews the patient’s medical history to determine if other illnesses could have caused the heart muscle to weaken or stiffen. She also asks about symptoms and medications and performs a physical exam to determine if there are signs of heart failure.
Based on information obtained during the visit, Dr. Navas recommends the appropriate test to determine if a patient has heart failure. Cleveland Clinic Florida offers a number of diagnostic tests including blood tests, chest x-ray, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, ejection fraction, stress test, CCT test and angiogram.
If it is determined that a patient has heart failure, management of the condition could include medications, lifestyle changes, or surgery.
For less severe conditions, regular medication can help to improve the heart’s ability to pump blood, slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow and prevent fluid retention.
"It is vitally important for patients to follow their physician’s advice and take an active role in managing their heart condition," Dr. Navas said.
In many cases, a medical device such as a defibrillator can be implanted to monitor the heart’s rhythm. If the heart beats at a dangerous rhythm, the defibrillator shocks the heart back into normal rhythm. Other medical devices include a biventricular pacemaker which sends electrical impulses to both chambers of the heart allowing them to pump blood more efficiently and a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) which helps the heart pump blood.
If the patient’s symptoms progress or are more severe, Cleveland Clinic’s heart surgeons can perform procedures to improve the heart’s function and prevent further damage. The most common surgical treatment for heart failure caused by coronary artery disease is bypass surgery which involves harvesting a vein from the patient’s arm or leg to replace the blocked artery.
Another surgical option, is traditional heart valve surgery which repairs or replaces diseased heart valves. In some cases, a minimally invasive approach can be performed in which smaller incisions are made, reducing blood loss, trauma and the length of hospital stay.
Quality of life management
In addition to medication and or surgery, Dr. Navas often recommends nutritional and exercise guidelines to help patients improve their heart function.
You may schedule an appointment online or by calling toll-free 800.639.DOCTOR.