Heart Failure Education
The highly skilled medical experts at the Mission Hospital Heart Failure
Program provide evidence-based care for heart failure patients. Our mission
is to equip our patients and their families with the tools necessary to
manage heart failure for improved quality of life and minimal hospitalization.
We provide one-on-one education to our patients and their caregivers on
topics that include medications, lifestyle modification, symptoms to recognize
and when to contact the physician. Prior to discharge, you will receive
educational materials and resources. If possible, it is best to have your
significant other or caregiver with you during this education session.
A video about heart failure is available for you and your family to view
as many times as necessary.
What is Heart Failure?
Heart Failure is a condition that affects the heart’s ability to
pump and receive blood. This decreases the ability of the heart to maintain
the needs of the body and might lead to congestion of the lungs and body
with fluid; thus the term “Congestive Heart Failure.”
What are the Common Risk Factors for Heart Failure?
- High Blood Pressure
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) or Previous Heart Attack
- Increased age
- Drug or Alcohol abuse
- Family History
What can I do to Decrease my Risk?
You can decrease your risk by:
- Adequately treating high blood pressure
- Losing weight (speak with your physician about a goal that is right for you)
- Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake (ask your physician about what is right for you)
- Eat a low-cholesterol and low-fat diet
- Early detection (knowing what to look for)
What are the Symptoms of Heart Failure?
- Swelling in the feet, ankles or abdomen
- Shortness of breath or cough that won’t go away
- Excessive urination at night
- Weight gain of more than two pounds from one morning to the next
- Fatigue, dizziness or lightheadedness
- A change in ability to do daily activities
- “Racing” heart rate
What Should I do if I Have These Symptoms?
- Seek medical advice from your health care provider early on; avoid waiting
until symptoms grow worse
- If symptoms progress, go to the Emergency Department for evaluation
The key to successfully treating heart failure is to diagnose the condition
in its earliest stages and manage it aggressively to prevent symptoms
After you have described your symptoms and your physician has performed
a physical examination, one of several diagnostic tests may be used to
diagnose heart failure and assess your current heart health.
These diagnostic procedures may include:
Echocardiogram: an ultrasound of the heart that is used to evaluate the structures of
the heart and its ability to pump blood.
Chest X-ray: used to check for congestion of the lungs and to detect an increase in
the size of the heart.
Stress testing (stress echo or stress nuclear studies): usually done after an initial phase of treatment and helps to evaluate
for blockages in the heart vessels or coronary arteries.
Cardiac catheterization: a procedure involving the injection of dye into the heart through a needle
inserted into the groin. It is used to find out if there are blockages
in the heart vessels. Devices such as a stent or angioplasty may be placed
during this procedure that help to “open” the blockages.
The main goals in treating heart failure include:
- Recognizing symptoms of heart failure is the first step in managing and
treating heart failure. Early detection can prompt you to seek medical
care in a timely manner.
- Finding a potentially treatable cause and halt or (in certain circumstances)
reverse this condition.
- Controlling symptoms and improving the overall outcome using the appropriate therapy.
Lifestyle modification is one of the main ways to treat heart failure and
includes the following:
- Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Follow a low-sodium diet. You should consume no more than 2,000 mg of sodium
per day (refer to nutrition labels). Do not cook with salt or add salt
to your food.
- Exercise. Consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise routine.
It is important to know how well your heart is functioning so you have
realistic expectations for your activity level.
- Weigh daily as this is one of the most important ways to detect fluid retention.
You should call your physician if you gain more than two pounds from one
morning to the next or 5 pounds in a week.
- Fluid restriction. You should consume no more than 2 liters (64 oz.) of
fluid per day.
- Take all the medications as they are prescribed by your physician.
Medications are prescribed to improve quality of life, symptoms of congestion,
avoid hospital admissions and prevent stroke or heart attack. Your doctor
may prescribe any combination of the following types of medications:
- ACE Inhibitors: improve the heart function and efficiency (examples include:
Lisinopril/Prinivil, Captopril/Capoten, Enalapril/Vasotec).
- Beta-Blockers: decrease the workload of the heart (examples include: Coreg/Carvedilol,
- Diuretics: work in the kidney to rid body of excess fluid (examples include:
Lasix/Furosemide, Aldactone/Spironolactone, Metolazone).
- Digoxin: improves the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.
- “Blood thinners” help prevent heart attack and stroke (may
include Aspirin and Coumadin/Warfarin).
Additional treatment are available, such as
Opening Blocked Arteries - If you have blocked coronary (heart) arteries, your physician may advise
you to have a coronary artery bypass surgery or a stent or angioplasty
(devices to open the blockage).
Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy - Your physician may advise you to have Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy
(CRT). This is a surgical procedure that includes placing a device in
the left upper part of your chest (like a pacemaker) that is designed
to synchronize your heart contractions so that your blood is pumped more
Heart Transplant - Your physician may refer you to a heart transplant center for evaluation.
Not all heart failure patients qualify for a transplant.
Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) - This is an implantable heart pump that may be used as a temporary treatment
until a heart transplant can be performed or as a permanent device. This
is used in patients with advanced stages of heart failure.
Patient and Family Resources
The following are additional websites that may help you understand heart
failure and how it is treated.