The Heart Failure Program at Memorial University Medical Center provides education for heart failure patients and their families, community education, and intense patient follow up to help people with heart failure live well and stay well. To learn more about our program, call 912-350-BEAT (2328). View our heart failure patient outcomes.
What is Heart Failure? Heart failure occurs when the heart does not pump properly. It can’t send enough oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood through the body, meaning other organs cannot function properly either. As a result, you may experience fatigue and shortness of breath. Everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs, or carrying groceries become very difficult.
Heart failure is a serious condition and there is no cure. But many people with heart failure lead full, enjoyable lives by managing their condition with medication and lifestyle changes.
Heart failure can impact one or both sides of the heart.
Left-Sided Heart Failure The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the left atrium, then to the left ventricle, then out to the rest of the body. The left ventricle is larger than the other chambers in the heart and supplies most of the heart's pumping power. In left-sided or left ventricular (LV) heart failure, the left side of the heart must work even harder than usual to pump the same amount of blood. There are two types of left-sided heart failure:
Right-Sided Heart Failure Blood that has already circulated through the body returns to the heart through the right atrium and is pumped into the right ventricle. The right ventricle then pumps the blood back to the lungs to be replenished with oxygen.
Right-sided or right ventricular (RV) heart failure usually occurs as a result of left-sided failure. When the left ventricle fails, fluid builds up in the lungs and ultimately damages the heart's right side. When the right side loses its pumping power, blood backs up in the body's veins and causes swelling and congestion. This is also known as “congestive heart failure.”
Congestive Heart Failure When blood flow out of the heart slows down, blood returning to the heart backs up, causing congestion throughout the body. This often results in swelling in the legs and ankles. If fluid collects in the lungs, it causes shortness of breath, particularly when a person is lying down. This can lead to respiratory distress. Heart failure also affects the kidneys' ability to dispose of sodium and water. The retained water further increases swelling throughout the body. Congestive heart failure requires timely medical attention.
Managing Heart Failure Heart failure cannot be cured, but it can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. Successful treatment depends upon your willingness to get involved and take control of your health. Caregivers and loved ones also play an important role in helping you manage heart failure.
The following lifestyle changes can help alleviate heart failure symptoms, slow disease progression, and improve your overall health.
Heart Failure Medications Heart failure patients need multiple medications to treat different symptoms or contributing factors. Make sure you follow your healthcare team’s instructions about when and how to take them. It's important to discuss all of the drugs you take with your doctor and understand their desired effects and possible side effects. Remember that your healthcare provider and pharmacist are your best sources of information. Don't hesitate to ask them questions about your medicines.
Surgery Surgery may be needed if your heart failure is caused by a heart defect or a blocked artery. Your doctor may recommend:
Implantable Devices Today, doctors are using the following implantable devices to help manage heart failure:
Warning Signs When you have heart failure, it’s very important to keep track of symptoms and report any changes to your healthcare team. Pay attention to your body. If you notice something new or different, notify your healthcare professional immediately. Watch for:
Contact Us The Heart Failure Program at Memorial University Medical Center 4700 Waters Avenue Savannah, GA 31404 912-350-4327