House Call: Treating heart failure patients in the community

Heart Failure– Key Information[i]

Definition:

Heart failure is commonly thought of as a condition in which the heart no longer works, which is not true. Heart failure is a condition in which the heart muscle cannot pump enough blood and oxygen through to keep up with the body’s requirements. 

Symptoms*:

-          Shortness of breath

-          Persistent coughing or wheezing

-          Retained excess fluid in tissues

-          Tiredness, fatigue

-          Loss of appetite and/or nausea

-          Confusion and/or impaired thinking ability

-          Increased heart rate

*Some people may not recognize they have symptoms of heart failure because the heart and body will, at, first try to compensate for the failure. 

-          The heart will enlarge, develop more muscle mass and pump faster.

-          The body will narrow blood vessels and divert blood from less important tissues and organs to sustain blood flow to the heart and brain.

Conditions that may lead to heart failure:

-          Coronary artery disease

-          Previous heart attack

-          High blood pressure

-          Abnormal heart valves

-          Heart muscle disease

-          Heart defects from birth

-          Severe lung disease

-          Diabetes

-          Sleep apnea

Treatment after heart failure may include:

-          Quitting smoking

-          Losing or managing weight

-          Avoiding alcohol

-          Avoiding or limiting caffeine intake

-          Eating a heart healthy diet

-          Sustaining a physically active lifestyle

-          Managing stress

-          Monitoring blood pressure

-          Getting adequate rest

-          Finding support

-          Avoiding influenza and pneumonia by receiving vaccinations

-          Wearing appropriate clothing

-          Following heart healthy guidelines for engaging in sexual activity

Treatment may also include multiple medications for:

-          Preventing harmful clots from forming in blood vessels

-          May prevent the clots from increasing in size

-          Often medications are used to prevent first or recurring stroke

Heart failure can also occur in children and adolescents through:

-          Over circulation failure caused by:

  • Structural heart defect,  abnormal heart valves or low blood (anemia)

-          Heart pump failure caused by:

  • Virus infection that damages the heart, or the heart may be abnormal at birth

Symptoms of heart failure in children:

-          Breathing trouble

-          Decreased appetite or poor eating habits

-          Poor growth

-          Excessive sweating

-          Low blood pressure

Heart failure in children or adults is a serious, chronic condition with no absolute cure; however, it is treatable and most will be able to enjoy a full, meaningful life.

[i] American Heart Association, Prevention and treatment of heart failure, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/Heart-Failure_UCM_002019_SubHomePage.jsp

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