Heart Failure (cont.)

How Can I Improve My Quality of Life?

There are several things you can do to improve your quality of life. Among them:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Limit your consumption of sodium (salt) to less than 2,000 milligrams (2 grams) each day. Eat foods high in fiber. Limit foods high in fat, cholesterol and sugar. Reduce total daily intake of calories to lose weight if necessary.

  • Exercise regularly. A regular cardiovascular exercise program, prescribed by your doctor, will help improve symptoms and strength and make you feel better. It may also decrease heart failure progression.

  • Don't overdo it. Plan your activities and include rest periods during the day. Certain activities, such as pushing or pulling heavy objects and shoveling may worsen heart failure and its symptoms.

  • Prevent respiratory infections. Ask your doctor about flu and pneumonia vaccines.

  • Take your medications as prescribed. Do not stop taking them without first contacting your doctor.

  • Get emotional or psychological support if needed. Heart failure can be difficult for your whole family. If you have questions, ask your doctor or nurse. If you need emotional support, social workers, psychologists, clergy and heart failure support groups are a phone call away. Ask your doctor or nurse to point you in the right direction.

What Surgical Procedures Are Used to Treat Heart Failure?

Surgery is aimed at stopping further damage to the heart and improving the heart's function. Procedures used include:

  • Implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD). The LVAD is known as the "bridge to transplantation" for patients who haven't responded to other treatments and are hospitalized with severe systolic heart failure. This device helps your heart pump blood throughout your body. It allows you to be mobile, sometimes returning home to await a heart transplant. It may also be used as destination therapy for long-term support in patients who are not eligible for transplant.

  • Coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. The most common surgery for heart failure is bypass surgery. Your doctor will determine if your heart failure is caused by coronary artery disease and if you have blockages that can be bypassed. Although surgery is more risky for people with heart failure, new strategies before, during and after surgery have reduced the risks and improved outcomes.

  • Heart valve surgery . Diseased heart valves can be treated both surgically (traditional heart valve surgery) and non-surgically (balloon valvuloplasty).

  • Infarct exclusion surgery (Modified Dor or Dor Procedure). When a heart attack occurs in the left ventricle (left lower pumping chamber of the heart), a scar forms. The scarred area is thin and can bulge out with each beat. The bulging thin area is called an aneurysm. When heart failure occurs after a heart attack, the surgeon may choose to combine bypass surgery and/or valve repair, with removal of the infarcted (dead) area of heart tissue or the aneurysm. Infarct exclusion surgery allows the surgeon to return the left ventricle to a more normal shape and to improve function.

  • Heart transplant. A heart transplant is considered when heart failure is so severe that it does not respond to all other therapies, but the person's health is otherwise good.

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