What is heart failure?
Heart failure occurs as a result of the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body. It occurs as a result of the heart muscle becoming too weak or stiff.
What are the symptoms of heart failure?
The most common symptoms are breathlessness, tiredness and fluid retention leading to ankle swelling. Heart failure is a serious condition and requires specialist input. As there are other causes of breathlessness, it is very important to make the correct diagnosis.
What assessment will I need in the event of heart failure or suspected heart failure?
A number of tests can be used to help diagnose heart failure. There are a number of causes of heart failure including high blood pressure, narrowing of the heart arteries, a heart attack, heart muscle weakness (cardiomyopathy), a heart rhythm disturbance or heart valve disease. You will need some basic blood tests, an ECG and an echocardiogram to make the diagnosis and delineate the underlying cause. In many cases it will be necessary to perform further tests.
What treatment will I need in the event of heart failure or suspected heart failure?
Heart failure is usually a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment. Treatment is a combination of lifestyle measures and medication. In some cases, the underlying cause may require surgery, for example, if the underlying cause is related to a heart valve problem. Treatment for heart failure can be effective and can help the heart become stronger, improve symptoms, reduce the risk of a flare-up and allows people with the condition to live longer.
Lifestyle changes are important and include stopping smoking, keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight at a healthy level and exercising regularly. Medication can help strengthen the heart muscle leading to an improvement in symptoms and prognosis.
Selected patients may be suitable to receive advanced cardiac device therapy in the form of an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) or cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) which can help strengthen the heart muscle.