Heart Failure (cont.)
In this Article
Treatment and Research
There is no cure for heart failure, but it can be controlled by treating the underlying conditions that cause it. The goals for treatment are to improve symptoms, stop it from getting worse, and prolong life span.
Treatment includes lifestyle changes, medications, and specialized care for those who are in the advanced stages.
Treatment for heart failure will reduce the chances that you will have to go to the hospital and make it easier for you to do the things you like to do. It is very important that you follow your treatment plan by keeping doctors appointments, taking medications, and making lifestyle changes.
Your doctor will probably recommend that you follow a diet low in salt because salt can cause extra fluid to build up in your body, making heart failure worse. You should limit the fluids you drink and weigh yourself every day. Let your doctor know right away if you have sudden weight gain. This could mean extra fluid is building up.
Your doctor may also tell you to lose weight, quit smoking, and limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Your doctor will prescribe medications to improve your heart function and symptoms. These may include:
Medications your doctor may prescribe include:
Those with heart failure should try to avoid respiratory infections like pneumonia and the flu. Ask your doctor about getting an annual flu shot. Your doctor may also order extra oxygen if you have trouble breathing. The oxygen can be used in your home or in the hospital.
People with severe heart failure may also receive a mechanical heart pump that is placed inside the body to help pump blood. Some heart pumps can stay in your body for a long time, while others are temporary.
You may also be considered for a heart transplant. During transplantation, a healthy heart from someone who has recently died is put in to replace yours. A transplant is an option when all other treatments fail to control symptoms.
Many advances in treatment for heart failure have been made over the past few decades, but heart failure is still very common. Scientists are trying to determine the best ways to prevent and treat heart failure.
For example, a recent study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of implantable defibrillators -- ICDs -- revealed that the device can prolong the lives of some heart failure patients.
Researchers are also looking at genetics in relation to heart failure treatments. One study is investigating whether patients who have certain genetic markers may respond better to beta blockers than those who do not.
A study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has shown that drugs called statins, which can reduce cholesterol levels, also improve survival in heart failure patients. Many other new treatments for heart failure are currently being tested.