Updated: Apr 24
Learn more about heart failure from your primary doctor in Sunny Isles, Miami.
Heart failure is the inability of the heart to efficiently pump blood to the rest of the body.
Heart failure does not mean that the heart stops working; however it means that the heart cannot circulate enough blood to the body.
As a result, the heart is unable to supply enough oxygen and nutrients to the body.
The heart has a unique structure to allow its primary task as a “Powerful pump”.
It consists of 4 chambers and valves that ensure the movement of the blood in the one direction.
The heart works by relaxing and filling up with blood then contracting to push the blood to the body.
Additionally there are small vessels we call them the coronary arteries.
These vessels supply blood and nutrients to the heart wall muscle itself.
There is a network of nerves in the heart that regulates it is electrical activities and initiate the pumping function of the heart.
Any damage to the structure of the heart or limitation of its functionality can potentially lead to the heart failure.
Why do we care?
The importance of prompt and early diagnosis and treatment of heart failure cannot be overemphasized as the prognosis is generally poor.
Causes of heart failure:
1. Coronary artery disease that supplies the blood to the heart muscle itself. This is the most common cause of heart failure.
Any obstruction of these arteries can lead to the death of part of the muscle of the heart, which prevents the heart from bumping blood efficiently. This obstruction can be partial or sometimes complete as in the case of heart attack.
2. High blood sugar is another cause of developing heart failure, especially in woman
3. Poorly-controlled high blood pressure for long time or problems with the heart valves.
4. There are other risk factors that increase the chance of developing heart failure including alcohol abuse, tobacco smoking, sedentary lifestyle and obesity.
Poor socioeconomic status could indirectly be a risk factor to developing heart disease in the mean of poor compliance of taking medication or difficulty getting appropriate health attention.
There are less common causes of heart failure including abnormal heart rhythm like in the case of atrial fibrillation, also the development of inflammation of the heart muscle or the lining that is covering the heart.
Severe anemia can cause heart failure in the mean of inability for the heart to pump fast enough to circulate enough oxygen to the body.
Signs and symptoms:
The most common sign of heart failure is shortness of breath, especially on activities.
This is mostly associated with generalized fatigue and decreased activities.
Those symptoms are a result of accumulation of the water in the lungs and in the legs.
Water in the lungs will prevent obtaining enough oxygen to supply the body.
Legs edema and swelling can cause difficulty moving and sometimes developing ulcers or pain.
Shortness of breath on activities is an important sign of heart failure; it was present in at least 80% of the cases.
There are more specific signs to the heart failure that point directly at it.
Shortness of breath upon lying down, where you see the patient sleeping sitting on a chair or using multiple pillows on his bed, usually more than 3 pillows.
Waking up multiple times during the night gasping for air with the patient sits on the chair leaning forward or sticks his or her head out of the window to breathe fresh air.
Testing for heart failure:
In evaluating heart failure it is important to perform many tests to identify it, as well as to identify risk factors or causes.
This will benefit in the treatment and prevention of this condition.
In the office during clinical exam we check the blood pressure as well as we listen to the lungs to identify any possible fluid collection, we listen to the heart to identify any abnormal heart sounds. And we examined the legs for any possible swelling.
We usually do routine blood work were which check blood level, electrolytes, thyroid hormone level and iron. Also we checked for liver function and we screen for diabetes.
We routinely order EKG to evaluate any possible electrical problems in the heart, we can also identify enlargement of the heart using this test.
Chest x-ray will identify any possible enlargement of the heart or the presence of water in the lungs.
Echocardiogram is the standard test to diagnose heart failure. By using the ultrasound waves we can measure the size of the heart, the elasticity of the heart muscle, the pumping strengths and we can see also the valves for any possible problem.
Sometimes we have to do cardiac catheterization to evaluate possible obstruction of the coronary arteries which can be treated to prevent heart failure.
1. Lifestyle modification: This is very important in preventing and slowing down the progression of heart failure.
Quitting alcohol and smoking and or illicit drug use significantly help prevent and manage this condition.
Healthy diet include low sugar, low-fat and low-salt diet helps prevent many condition can lead to heart failure like diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
2. Medication adherence. It is very important for people with heart failure to make sure that they are taking their medication on time and constantly. Controlling the blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol significantly improve the symptoms of heart failure and slows its progression.
Early identification and treatment of heart failure could lead to reversible effect and regaining the normal heart function in some cases.
Treatment of heart failure:
For patients who have heart failure we have many medications that can help improve their symptoms, slow the progression and decrease the risk factors.
These medications including the very famous “water pill” that decrease the fluid in the body and improve the symptoms of shortness of breath and legs edema.
There are other medications aims to restore the heart muscle are usually known to those patients who have heart failure. These medications like beta-blockers, Ace inhibitors and digoxin.
We usually use statin medication to decrease the cholesterol level in addition to its anti-inflammation effect.
In the cases where the heart rhythm is abnormal, we may have to use medication that regulates the heart or slow it down like beta-blocker or digoxin.
In addition to medications, sometimes we have to intervene with surgical procedures to reverse any defects or correct any problem.
We could be repairing the coronary artery disease with a balloon or placing a stent.
Sometimes we have to fix the valves to restore the direction of the blood flow.
We can also implant devices like pacemakers to regulate the heart.
And finally, in advanced cases, we may refer the patient for heart transplant
Heart failure is a chronic disease with debilitating and potentially fatal consequences for those who develop it and suffer from it.
Early detection, regular screening, lifestyle modification and immediate treatment are known to improve the prognosis and prevent death associated with heart failure.
If you are interested to know more about heart failure, call us or visit us online.
Elite Medical Center serves North Miami area including Sunny Isles Beach and Aventura.