Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure is one of the fastest growing heart conditions in the United States. There are more than five million Americans with heart failure and over 550,000 people are diagnosed with heart failure each year. You are not alone, and Spectrum Health is here to help. Our goal is to provide you with superior quality personal care, working in partnership with you to treat your heart failure.

Heart failure means your heart is not pumping well. Symptoms of heart failure may develop over weeks or months. Your heart becomes weaker over time and is not able to pump the amount of blood your body needs. Your heart may enlarge. When the heart can’t pump as strongly as before, the body can’t get rid of extra fluid. This fluid can leak into the lungs and may cause swelling in the legs, feet, ankles or abdomen.

From prevention to early stage heart failure, rehabilitation, advanced heart failure, mechanical circulatory assist and heart transplant, Spectrum Health offers the only comprehensive heart failure program in West Michigan. 

Treatments for Congestive Heart Failure

If you're living with congestive heart failure, you know the importance of finding the right specialist. It's an important long-term relationship. The Spectrum Health advanced heart failure program delivers state-of-the-art services you can't find anywhere else in the area. Our heart failure program is the largest and longest-running in West Michigan, and our specialists are leaders and innovators in the field of heart medicine.

Knowing your treatment is geared to help you feel your best both today and in the months ahead is not just encouraging, it's needed. From medications and heart rehabilitation to implantable devices and even heart transplant if you need it, our national recognition becomes real with the ability to change your life.

Heart Failure Monitoring System (Cardio MEMS)
Starting treatment during the earliest stages of heart failure is critical to getting the best outcome. With regular check-ins and various monitoring techniques, we can help you manage your condition and plan further treatment.

Heart Transplant
The Spectrum Health Richard DeVos Heart and Lung Transplant Program brings outstanding transplant surgeons to you for life-saving heart transplant when all other options are no longer working.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator
This device combines the steady regulation of a pacemaker with the ability to shock the heart back into rhythm. It is used to treat congestive heart failure as well as arrhythmia, which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD)
This surgically-placed, battery operated pump takes over when congestive heart failure reaches end-stage heart failure. The lower left chamber of the heart is the main pumping chamber. The left ventricular assist device (LVAD) mechanically pumps the blood through this chamber.

Medication Management
Along with very important lifestyle changes, there are a variety of medicines used to help treat heart conditions. Medicines for heart disease are used to ease discomfort or lessen symptoms, but some can also be essential in preventing life-threatening episodes. It is important to take your medicines exactly as prescribed, and work with your doctor on both lifestyle and medicine changes.

Your doctor may recommend a pacemaker to stimulate a faster heart rate when your heart beats too slow and the problem can't be fixed with other treatments.

What Is Heart Failure (HF)?

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure (CHF), is a condition in which the heart cannot (fails to) pump enough blood to organs and tissues. One side of the heart (or both sides) cannot force enough blood out, so blood backs up. Congestion, or abnormal buildup of fluid, occurs in tissues or organs, and blood doesn’t move well through the vascular system.

If the left side of the heart fails, the system on the right side becomes congested. The congested side of the heart must work harder and may also fail. The same thing can happen on the right side.

What Causes HF?

Diseases that stress heart muscle can cause HF. These conditions include high blood pressure, heart attack, heart muscle and valve diseases, infections, arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), anemia, thyroid disease, pulmonary disease, and too much fluid in the body.

What Are the Symptoms of HF?

When the left side of the heart fails, fluid leaks into the lungs. Fatigue (tiredness), difficulty breathing (especially at night when lying down), coughing, or shortness of breath can result.

In right-sided heart failure, the liver swells, which may cause pain in the abdomen (belly). Legs and feet may swell also.

How Is HF Diagnosed?

A physical examination will show changes, such as swelling in the legs or crackling breath sounds, indicating excess fluid in the lungs.

A chest x-ray can show an enlarged heart and signs of fluid accumulation into the lungs. An echocardiogram (a test using sound waves to show the moving heart) can also reveal heart size and disease of the heart muscle or valve problems.

How Is HF Treated?

Initial symptoms should be managed so the failing heart doesn’t have to work as hard.

The cause of HF also needs treatment. For example, if a heart valve problem is the cause, surgery may be needed to repair or replace the valve. Lifestyle changes will be needed. Smoking lowers the blood oxygen level and makes the heart work harder, so avoid tobacco. Less fluid and salt in the diet reduces fluid in the body. Also, if overweight, losing weight will help. Dietitians and nutritionists can help plan a diet.

Oxygen may be given to reduce the workload on the lungs.

Medicines may be prescribed to reduce fluid in the body or help the ventricle contract better. Diuretics remove fluid. Nitrates open blood vessels so blood flows more easily. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help the ventricle contract. Beta-blockers help by slowing the heart rate. Other drugs reduce blood pressure. All may have side effects, including dehydration, cough, dizziness, fainting, and fatigue.

Pacemakers and implantable defibrillators may be used in some cases.

Heart transplantation is an option in some patients when other treatments fail.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing HF:
  • DO take your medicines properly.
  • DO maintain your ideal body weight.
  • DO reduce salt and extra fluid in your diet.
  • DO get your family involved in your care, especially the needed lifestyle changes.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have side effects from your drugs or new or worsening symptoms, such as increasing shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting.
  • DON’T forget to take all your medicines as directed.
  • DON’T smoke.
  • DON’T stop taking any medicines without telling your health care provider.

Contact the following source:

  • American Heart Association
    Tel: (800) 242-8721
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor