Heart failure is often misunderstood. Many people think heart failure means that their heart will stop beating. If you have heart failure, it means that your heart has lost some of its ability to pump blood.
There are two kinds of heart failure. In the first kind, the heart muscle has weakened and cannot pump enough blood out with each beat. This is called systolic heart failure. In the second kind, the heart pumps normally but the heart muscle has become stiff. Your heart has lost its ability to relax and does not completely fill with blood. This is called diastolic heart failure.
Don’t be discouraged by the word failure. For most patients, heart failure cannot be cured, but you can help to keep it from getting worse or even make it better by taking your medicine, eating the right foods, watching your fluids and exercising. If you take care of your heart, you can feel better and enjoy life more.
Any disease that weakens the heart muscle can lead to heart failure. The most common causes of heart failure are:
In many cases, the cause is never known, in which case it is called “Idiopathic Cardiomyopathy.”
(Note: All of these symptoms are common to many medical conditions and may not indicate heart failure. If you have any concerns, consult your doctor.)
To effectively diagnose heart failure, patients receive a comprehensive evaluation, which may include one or more of the following tests:
Do not be discouraged by the word “failure”. For most patients, heart failure cannot be cured, but you can prevent it from getting worse and often help it get better. Here are some things that you can do to feel better:
For some patients, further therapies may be considered, such as:
New treatment approaches can prevent many patients with advanced heart disease from ever needing a heart assist or replacement. However, in cases where severe symptoms persist despite maximal medical therapy, patients may be considered for assist devices or for a heart transplant. Careful evaluation is required to identify patients who would benefit from these procedures.
The Advanced Heart Failure/Cardiomyopathy Program offers a variety of clinical trials for patients. The Program is pioneering efforts in a number of areas, including:
The Advanced Heart Failure/Cardiomyopathy Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital provides world-class evaluation and treatment for patients with heart failure and cardiomyopathy. Our faculty members have been instrumental in the research that has led to new strategies of care. We are involved in the generation of national guidelines for the care of heart failure patients and are honored as one of only 7 centers in the United States selected to lead an NIH Heart Failure Clinical Research Network.