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Heart failure treatment

How is heart failure treated?

Today there are more options available to treat heart failure than ever before. Regular medication and lifestyle changes coupled with careful monitoring is the first line of treatment. As the condition progresses, centres specialising in the treatment of heart failure can offer more advanced treatment options, such as surgery.

What medicines are used to treat heart failure?

Taking your heart failure medicines as prescribed is one of the most important things you can do to manage your heart failure. The more you know about your medicines and how they work, the easier it will be for you to stay on track.

Common types of medication used to treat heart failure include:

  • Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Digoxin
  • Diuretics
  • Blood vessel dilators
  • Potassium or magnesium
  • Aldosterone inhibitors
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Heart pump medication

 

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:

  • Bypass surgery: The most common surgery for heart failure is bypass surgery to route blood around a blocked heart artery.
  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD): The LVAD helps your heart pump blood through your body. It allows you to be mobile, sometimes returning home to await a heart transplant.
  • Heart valve surgery: As heart failure progresses, the heart valves that normally help direct the flow of blood through the heart to the rest of the body stretch out of shape, allowing blood to ‘leak’ backwards. The valves can be repaired or replaced.
  • 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 (an aneurysm). A heart surgeon can remove the infarcted (dead) area of heart tissue or the aneurysm.
  • 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.

 

How can I prevent my heart failure from worsening?

To prevent your heart failure from worsening:

  • Keep your blood pressure at the target level. In heart failure, the release of hormones causes the blood vessels to constrict or tighten. The heart must work hard to pump blood through the constricted vessels. It is important to keep your blood pressure as low as advised so that your heart can pump effectively without extra stress.
  • Monitor your own symptoms. Check for changes in your fluid status by weighing yourself daily and checking for swelling.
  • Plan regular doctor appointments. During follow-up visits, your doctors will make sure you are staying healthy and that your heart failure is not getting worse. Your doctor will ask to review your weight record and list of medications. If you have questions, write them down and bring them to your appointment. Seek medical advice if you have urgent questions. Notify all your doctors about your heart failure, medication, and any restrictions. Also, check with your heart doctor about any new medicines prescribed by another doctor. Keep good records and bring them with you to each doctor visit.

 

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