Heart failure, as the name suggests, occurs when the heart fails to pump enough blood throughout the body, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can result from the heart’s weakened ability to push enough blood through the arteries, known as systolic or left-side heart failure.
It can also result from the heart’s inability to fill with enough blood because of thickened muscle walls within the heart’s chambers. This latter type of causes unoxygenated blood to back up in the blood vessels and is known as diastolic or right-side heart failure.
The American Heart Association estimates that 6.2 million American adults have heart failure.
Low Ejection Fraction
Doctors diagnose heart failure by measuring the amount of blood that leaves the heart. This measurement, called an ejection fraction, is normally between 55 and 70 percent, according to the American Heart Association. That means that each time the heart beats, 55-70 percent of the blood in the heart’s chambers is pumped through our arteries. In heart failure patients, the ejection fraction is much lower, resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling, due to fluid buildup in the body.
Common Treatments of Heart Failure
Medications, such as sacubitril-valsartan and dapagliflozin, are showing promise in effectively treating heart failure and reducing hospitalizations and death. Many patients also take diuretics to eliminate excess fluid and reduce the symptoms that occur because of its build up. Some patients may undergo angioplasty to open blocked blood vessels that can contribute to heart failure. More severe cases may require a pacemaker or an implantable defibrillator to help prevent an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, that often occurs in patients with heart failure and can be fatal.
Heart Recovery Program at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute
Managing heart failure has its challenges and often requires careful management by a cardiologist or healthcare professional. Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute offers a Heart Recovery Program that is helping patients regain their quality of life and stay out of the hospital. Cardiologist Sandra Chaparro, M.D., director of the program, says keeping a close watch on heart failure patients can save lives.
“In our Heart Recovery Program, we take a multidisciplinary approach to managing heart failure,” she said. “Patients are seen by our dedicated nurse practitioner typically within a week of being discharged from the hospital, following a heart failure-related hospitalization. She evaluates their medications and educates them about the importance of limiting their sodium intake and monitoring their daily weight to flag any fluid retention that signals worsening heart health.” She also reviews calibrations on implanted defibrillators to ensure the devices are working properly. Appointments with the nurse practitioner are regularly scheduled to lower the risk of heart failure patients having to return to the hospital.
In addition to the nurse practitioner, the Heart Recovery Program enlists the input of interventional cardiologists, electrophysiologists, lipidologists, heart surgeons and rehabilitation specialists. The program also has a doctor of pharmacy who helps patients secure the medications they need.
A Comprehensive Program for Heart Failure Patients
“Our Heart Recovery Program provides patients with an additional layer of protection when they return home,” Dr. Chaparro said. “Our patients in this program are being closely monitored through telemedicine, remote monitoring or in-person visits, so we can intervene quickly before a real problem occurs and they end up in the hospital. We also offer these patients access to the latest heart failure clinical trials. Our goal is to improve their quality of life and their longevity.”