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Heart Failure Treatment

Medical

The good news is that heart failure can be treated and managed. There are many ways to treat heart failure and its symptoms.

One of the most important tools in treating heart failure is medicine. Taking your medicine as prescribed can help you live longer. There are several types of medicines that people with heart failure are often prescribed.

Diuretics (water pills)

  • Common brands: Lasix®, Bumex®
  • These medicines cause you to urinate more often. This helps stop fluid buildup in the body and improves shortness of breath. It also helps reduce swelling in your arms and legs.
  • Your doctor may also prescribe potassium and magnesium supplements. This is because diuretics can reduce their levels in your body. Regular blood tests may be done to make sure that your levels are where they should be.

Aldosterone Antagonists

  • Common brands: Aldactone®, Inspra®
  • These are a type of diuretic that are usually given to patients with more severe heart failure.
  • They help your body get rid of excess fluid but keep potassium

ACE inhibitors

  • Common brands: Zestril®, Vasotec®
  • These medicines help lower blood pressure and improve shortness of breath.
  • This lowers the work your heart has to do.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)

  • Common brands: Cozaar®, Diovan®
  • Not everyone can use ACE inhibitors because of side effects.
  • For these people, ARBs are often prescribed. They provide many of the same benefits as ACE inhibitors.

Vasodilators, nitrates, and hydralazine

  • Common brands: Imdur®, Apresoline®
  • These are usually prescribed for patients who can't use ACE inhibitors or ARBs, but they are less effective.
  • Sometimes they are also added to ACE inhibitors or ARBs.

Beta blockers

  • Common brands: Coreg®, Toprol XL®
  • Beta blockers help slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure.
  • They can also sometimes reverse some of the damage to your heart.
  • They can help reduce the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, lessen the symptoms of heart failure and improve heart function.

Digitalis

  • Common brands: Lanoxin®, Digitek®
  • Digitalis (also known as digoxin) is also used in cases of systolic heart failure.
  • It can strengthen your heart and reduce your risk of going to the hospital for heart failure.

Angiotensin receptor-neprilysin inhibitors

  • Common brand: Entresto®
  • These medicines improve blood flow, reduce fluid retention, and decrease strain on the heart.

Sinoatrial node modulator

  • Common brands: Corlanor®, Procoralan®
  • This drug is used with beta blockers when they cannot lower heart rate enough.
  • It helps reduce the amount of oxygen your heart needs. It also lowers the amount of work your heart has to do.

Inotropes

  • Common brands: Dobutrex®, Primacor®
  • Inotropes can help increase the force of your heart's pumping.

Follow the instructions and warnings on the bottle.

If you have any questions about taking your medicines or have any side effects, talk with your doctor. A different dose or different medicine may be used if there are side effects.

Take all medicines exactly as prescribed.

No matter what medicines you're prescribed, it's important that you take them exactly the way your health professional recommended. Medicines can't help you if they aren't taken how they should be.

That means taking the right dose at the right time of day,

  • With or without food (as directed), and
  • With water or whatever beverage is specified.

Ask your doctor before taking any medicines or herbal supplements other than what your doctor has prescribed.

Some of these may make your heart failure worse. These can include ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) and naproxen (Aleve®, Naprosyn®).

Keep a record of all the medicines you're taking.

This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Bring this record with you to all medical appointments to help your health care team see how well the medicines are working.

For some people with heart failure, placing a device in your body through surgery can improve heart failure. The most commonly used devices are:

  • Pacemakers:
    • This is put directly into your heart and helps your heart pump properly.
    • This can help keep your heart rate closer to normal and also speed up your heart if it's beating too slowly.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs):
    • Similar to a pacemaker, an ICD is put just under the skin in your chest and has wires that connect through your veins into your heart.
    • An ICD can work like a pacemaker, speeding up your heart if it's beating too slowly. It can also correct abnormal heart rhythm by shocking the heart back to normal.
  • Coronary bypass surgery (CABG):
    • When the arteries become badly blocked, CABG surgery may be needed.
    • Blood vessels are removed from your leg, arm or chest.
    • One of the vessels is then used to bypass the blocked area of the artery, so blood can move more easily through to your heart.
  • Heart valve surgery:
    • Surgery may be needed for people whose heart failure is caused by a faulty heart valve.
    • This can mean repairing or replacing the leaky or narrowed valve.
  • Heart transplant:
    • If other treatments are not helping you to manage your heart failure, you may need to have your heart replaced. This is called a heart transplant.
    • More than 2,500 Americans each year have a heart transplant. This can improve quality of life and survival for people with severe heart failure.
  • Left ventricle assistive devices (LVADs):
    • LVADs are mechanical pumps that are implanted surgically.
    • They help the left ventricle pump blood when it isn't good enough on its own.

A team of health care professionals such as physicians, pharmacists, dietitians, nurses, social workers, specialists or other health educators can help you. They are trained to work with people living with heart failure. They can help you manage your medicines, your condition, and make lifestyle changes.

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