Heart failure is a chronic condition. Treatment for heart failure depends on how severe your case is. In some cases, it can be corrected by treating the underlying cause. Doctors usually treat heart failure, and the underlying conditions that cause it, with a combination of medications, dietary changes, and other therapies, if necessary. Left untreated, heart failure continues to worsen.

Medications

Your doctor will ask you to take medicines to treat your heart failure. Medicines treat the symptoms, prevent your heart failure from getting worse, and help you live longer. It is very important that you take your medicine as your health care team directed. View a full list of medications.

Do not take any other drugs or herbs without first asking your doctor or nurse about them. Drugs that may make your heart failure worse include:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Tadalafil (Cialis)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra)

Surgeries, Devices and Therapies

The following surgeries and devices for certain patients with heart failure may be recommended:
  • Aquapheresis
    Safely and effectively removes excess salt and water from the body to relieve symptoms of congestive heart failure. This non-drug therapy is more effective than diuretic medications alone. It can be performed on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery - CABG
    Blood vessels from your leg, arm or chest bypass a blocked artery in your heart to allow blood to flow through your heart more freely.
  • Heart Valve Surgery
    Heart valve surgery is used to repair or replace diseased heart valves.
  • Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD)
    Device that detects any life-threatening, rapid heartbeat. If such a heartbeat, called an arrhythmia, occurs, the ICD quickly sends an electrical shock to the heart to change the rhythm back to normal.
  • Pacemaker Implantation
    Device implanted under the skin and has wires (leads) that pass into the heart. It sends a very small electrical impulse through the leads into the muscle of the heart about once every second to stimulate contraction of the heart. Its main purpose is to make sure a person's heart rate does not become too slow.

Lifestyle Changes

You will need to make changes to your diet, especially the amount of salt you eat. Patients with weakened hearts may need implanted devices (such as pacemakers, implantable cardiac defibrillators, or devices that help the heart pump blood) or surgery, including heart transplantation. Alegent Creighton Health's Heart Care Support Group is devoted to helping you learn to live with your condition while sharing your experiences with others.

Alegent Creighton Health dietitians recommend the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.) http://www.alegentcreighton.com/DashDiet 

 Other important changes to make in your lifestyle:

  • Ask your doctor how much alcohol you may drink.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Stay active. Walk or ride a stationary bicycle. Your doctor can provide a safe and effective exercise plan for you. DO NOT exercise on days when your weight has gone up from fluid or you are not feeling well.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Lower your cholesterol by changing your lifestyle.
  • Get enough rest, including after exercise, eating, or other activities. This allows your heart to rest too.

Heart failure can suddenly get worse due to:

  • Angina
  • Eating high-salt foods
  • Heart attack
  • Infections or other illnesses
  • Not taking medicines correctly

Heart failure is usually a chronic illness, which may get worse over time. Some people develop severe heart failure, in which medicines, other treatments, and surgery no longer help.

Many people are at risk for deadly heart rhythms. These people often receive an implanted defibrillator to restore a normal heart rhythm if a deadly abnormal heart rhythm occurs.

Monitoring 

If you have heart failure, your doctor will monitor you closely. You will have follow-up appointments at least every 3 to 6 months, but sometimes much more often. You will also have tests to check your heart function.

Knowing your body and the symptoms that your heart failure is getting worse will help you stay healthier and out of the hospital. At home, watch for changes in your heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, and weight.

Weight gain, especially over a day or two, can be a sign that your body is holding onto extra fluid and your heart failure is getting worse. Talk to your doctor about what you should do if your weight goes up or you develop more symptoms.

Limit how much salt you eat. Your doctor may also ask you to limit how much fluid you drink during the day.

Calling your health care provide if you develop

  • Increased cough or phlegm
  • Sudden weight gain or swelling
  • Weakness
  • Other new or unexplained symptoms

Go to the Emergency Department or call 9-1-1 if you experience:

  • Fainting
  • Fast and irregular heartbeat (especially if you also have other symptoms)
  • Severe crushing chest pain

Severe Heart Failure

Severe heart failure occurs when treatments no longer work. Certain treatments may be used when a person is waiting for a heart transplant:
  • Intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP)
  • Left ventricular assist device (LVAD)
  • At a certain point, the health care provider will decide whether it is best to keep treating heart failure. The patient, along with his or her family and doctors, may want to discuss the option of palliative or comfort care at this time.

Expectations (prognosis)

It's important to keep your heart failure under control by taking medicine, changing your lifestyle, and treating the condition that caused it. Alegent Creighton Health offers the Heart Care Support Group, for those who are learning to live with Heart Failure. It also gives patients a chance to share with others their experiences in dealing with heart conditions.

Prevention

Most cases of heart failure can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle and reducing your risk for heart disease.

Heart Failure
Tests

Treatment

Medical Team

Prevention and Rehabilitation