How Heart Failure Is Diagnosed And Managed

Posted on: 4 May 2019

Heart failure occurs when the heart no longer pumps effectively. Not only does this problem make daily activities difficult, but it increases the risk of blood clots and sudden cardiac death. Knowing the risk factors for heart failure and identifying any symptoms early can open the door to more ways to manage the condition.


Symptoms are usually the first sign there is a problem with the heart, but once symptoms appear, the disease has already progressed. If symptoms occur, they may be vague and easy to blame on other problems. For example, a dry cough, shortness of breath, sudden weight gain, and swelling in the lower extremities are non-specific. As heart disease progresses, these symptoms become chronic and more severe. Once these concerns are brought to the attention of a doctor, other tests can be performed to determine the cause. Testing heart function is essential to detecting heart failure or related issues. A doctor may recommend an echocardiogram, which helps visualize heart function. The results of this test may show an enlarged heart, which can be a sign the heart is struggling to pump blood, or other indications the heart is damaged.


The type of medications used to manage heart failure will depend on the extent of symptoms and heart abnormalities. Managing underlying diseases that contribute to the development of heart failure and exacerbate the condition is especially important if heart failure is detected early, before symptoms appear. People who are at risk for developing heart failure or have been diagnosed often have a history of diabetes and/or hypertension. Improved blood pressure control helps reduce the strain on the heart. Since many of these medications contain a diuretic, they can reduce excess fluid that contributes to swelling and sudden weight gain. Other medications that may be used are ones that help the heart pump more effectively, anticoagulants, and medications to help with heart arrhythmias.

Surgical Procedures

Many of the common types of heart surgery may be used for specific problems related to heart failure. For example, the insertion of a pacemaker might be necessary for someone who has developed arrhythmias that are not managed with medication. Some patients may have a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted if their heart failure has primarily affected the left side of their heart and the device would help the heart pump more normally. No surgical procedure short of a heart transplant can solve heart failure. Fortunately, a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical procedures may slow the progression of heart failure.

The key to living with heart failure is identifying the problem when it is easier to manage. People with a higher risk of developing heart failure should be especially vigilant at managing chronic diseases and improving their lifestyle.

For more information, you will want to contact a place such as Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology.