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Heart Failure Treatment

heart failure treatment options
John C. Lincoln Hospitals are specialized in providing heart failure treatment. Our hospitals were first in Arizona to earn full accreditation as heart failure centers. Learn about our heart failure centers.

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Heart failure treatment at John C. Lincoln Hospitals has helped countless patients lessen their heart failure symptoms, return to daily activities and enjoy improved energy levels.

Through careful lifestyle modification and medical intervention, it is possible to prevent or slow the progress of heart failure.

Heart failure treatment options depend upon the type and severity of the patient's condition. The underlying causes of heart failure — heart disease (coronary artery disease), high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes, for example — all must be taken into account, as well.

Heart failure treatment can be grouped into three general categories, discussed below:

Heart Failure Treatment
through Lifestyle Management

Maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle is an essential key to controlling heart failure. These lifestyle elements include eating the right foods, drinking the right amount of fluids, maintaining a proper weight, being physically active, not smoking, avoiding alcohol and getting plenty of rest. Many of these lifestyle components are also helpful for preventing heart disease.

Moderation in sodium intake (consuming no more than 2,000 mg, or slightly less than one teaspoon of salt) can help keep blood pressure in check. Sodium increases blood pressure, because it holds fluids in the body, making the heart work harder. Because many foods have salt in them naturally — especially prepared foods — table salt should be avoided.

Foods that are high in potassium also may be recommended as a part of a heart failure treatment regimen. These foods include fruits (such as bananas and strawberries), vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli and squash), nuts and whole grains. Patients taking diuretics sometimes have low levels of potassium, leading to symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, muscle cramps, severe thirst, excessive urination and heart beat changes.

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Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure specialist

Fluid intake has a role in heart failure treatment, as well, especially for patients with advanced heart failure and those who are experiencing swelling. Generally speaking, patients should limit their intake of fluids to 8 cups, or 64 ounces, per day. In Arizona, a place with notoriously hot summers, patients may need to drink more fluids. A John C. Lincoln heart treatment specialist can recommend the appropriate amount to drink, based on the patient's condition and prescribed activity level.

Heart Failure Treatment with Medications

John C. Lincoln nurses and physicians emphasize the importance of following a prescribed treatment regimen — the key to managing heart failure successfully. We therefore ask our patients to take medications as prescribed and attend follow-up appointments.

Several drugs may be used to manage heart failure. Among the most common are ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and aldosterone antagonists.

ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) have shown to improve heart function, enhance patient well-being, reduce hospitalization and increase survival rates. ACE inhibitors work by limiting angiotensin, a hormone that causes the blood vessels to tighten and make the heart work harder.

Beta blockers slow the heart rate and reduce the heart's workload. Over time, beta blockers can help reshape a previously enlarged and stretched heart, which improves the heart's blood-pumping efficiency.

An aldosterone antagonist — which blocks aldosterone, a hormone that causes cardiac inflammation and other cardiac conditions — may be administered cautiously if a patient's ejection fraction is less than 35%.

Surgical Heart Failure Treatment Options

When a patient's heart failure is treatable with surgery, we'll explore these surgical options.

A highly common option is the biventricular pacemaker, an electronic device that is implanted under the skin. Each pacemaker is equipped with wires that are positioned in the heart to balance how the heart pumps blood. When a patient's heart rate drops below the programmed rate, the device's wires fire small electrical impulses to the heart muscle.

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) can help prevent sudden cardiac death caused by cardiac arrythmias (irregular heartbeat). In many ways, an ICD is like a pacemaker: it can send low-energy electrical impulses to restore normal rhythm to the heart. Yet, an ICD also can send stronger impulses to the heart if low-energy impulses fail to restore regular heartbeat.

A left-ventricular assist device (LVAD) is an "artificial heart" — a mechanical pump implanted in a heart's weakened left ventricle, the heart's major pumping chamber. An LVAD can be used either as a "bridge to transplant" therapy (as a patient awaits heart transplant surgery) or as a long-term therapy for patients who are not candidates for heart transplant.

Heart transplantation is viable for patients who suffer from so-called "end-stage heart failure," when all non-surgical treatments for heart failure have failed to manage the condition. Essentially, the diseased heart is replaced by a healthy heart from a deceased donor. Because the process for qualifying for heart transplantation is very complex, the procedure may not be an option for every patient.

Comprehensive, Individualized Care

Although we approach heart failure treatment on patient-by-patient basis, we are focused on providing essential components elements of care to each heart failure patient:

  • Assessment of the left ventricle's capacity to pump blood (systolic function).
  • Prescription of appropriate medications, such as ACE inhibitors, if the left ventricle's systolic function is significantly compromised.
  • Discharge instructions that encompass activity, diet, medications, follow-up appointments, weight monitoring and action to take if symptoms worsen.
  • Smoking cessation counseling, if necessary.
  • Immunizations for pneumonia and seasonal flu.

» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure treatment specialist.