Health News Author - Dr. Yoon

Heart failure is becoming a more frequently encountered health care term. At first glance, the term seems to indicate the heart is no longer working. However, heart failure actually refers to a chronic condition where the heart is still working but at a reduced efficiency where not enough blood is being pumped to meet the body’s needs. Heart failure requires immediate medical attention.

When heart failure begins, the heart tries to compensate by dilating, developing more muscle mass. Additionally, blood vessels throughout the body constrict and narrow in size. These compensations can initially hide the symptoms of heart failure for a short period of time but don’t reverse the condition, and actually make the condition worse.

Heart failure can be diagnosed through a variety of diagnostic tests and procedures, including a physical exam, blood test, x-rays, echocardiography, exercise stress test and more. It is important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of heart failure to ensure a timely diagnosis. Common symptoms, include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Buildup of excess fluid in body tissues
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Confusion/impaired thinking
  • Increased heart rate

Heart failure often results from other health conditions that can damage the heart. Conditions that may lead to heart failure, include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Past heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Heart muscle disease
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Severe lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Covid-19 infection

Depending on your condition, you may be able to prevent heart failure by reducing your risk factors. Changes you can make to your lifestyle to prevent heart failure, include:

  • Not smoking
  • Managing current medical conditions, like diabetes
  • Getting regular activity
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting stress

The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center has a multi-disciplinary care team to diagnose and treat patients with heart failure. The team helps patients manage their heart failure symptoms. Treatment plans vary per person, but may include lifestyle changes, medications, or even a procedure. The team helps someone diagnosed with heart failure navigate their medical care, manage medications and implement modifications to their lifestyle.

Since heart failure is a chronic condition, it can be an overwhelming diagnosis, but when the condition is managed, a person can live a healthy and happy life. If someone has been diagnosed with heart failure, it is important to:

  • Continue receiving medical care
  • Follow physician orders
  • Take prescribed medication
  • Avoid foods high in sodium
  • Start a doctor-approved exercise plan

Learn more about the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center.