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Heart failure

Heart failure is an indication that the heart is no longer working at its full potential. The heart is unable to pump blood as well as normal, which prevents the heart from receiving all the blood and oxygen it requires. Lifestyle changes and medication are popular treatment plans to combat heart failure.

Cardiac (heart) failure programs and clinics across Florida

Heart failure is a condition of the heart in which your heart muscle can no longer pump blood as well as it should.

This sounds frightening, but heart failure is preventable, manageable and treatable. Whatever you need, the heart specialists at HCA Florida Healthcare's hospitals can help. We'll start by listening to your needs and concerns and providing you with an accurate diagnosis. Then, whether you simply need to make certain lifestyle changes or you need more advanced treatment, such as heart surgery, we’ll help you take those steps.

Is your heart healthy?

Understanding your heart health is critical to getting the care you need. We offer a health risk assessment to help get you started.

Understanding your heart health is critical to getting the care you need. We offer a health risk assessment to help get you started.

Understanding, diagnosing and treating heart failure

We provide many prevention, diagnostic and treatment programs for heart failure. We also offer educational resources to help you identify possible signs of heart failure and learn when to seek help.

What is heart failure?

Your heart is a muscle, and, like all muscles, it can get worn out. When this happens, your weakened heart can no longer pump blood properly to the rest of your body. As a result, the body's organs eventually begin to weaken and fail as well.

Types of heart failure

There are two types of heart failure:

  • Systolic heart failure (systolic left ventricular dysfunction) — in which the left ventricle (heart chamber) doesn't contract enough, preventing enough blood from being pumped out to the body
  • Diastolic heart failure (heart failure with preserved left ventricular function) — in which the ventricles do not relax after contracting, preventing enough blood from entering the heart

The difference between heart failure and congestive heart failure

Heart failure is a condition that develops and progressively worsens over time, if left untreated. There is a particular stage of heart failure in which fluid begins to build up around the heart muscle, contributing to the heart's inability to properly pump. This stage is known as "congestive heart failure" because there is "congestion" around the heart.

What are the signs and symptoms of heart failure?

The symptoms of heart failure may include:

  • Confusion or impaired thinking
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Frequent urination, especially at night time
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased thirst
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down
  • Sudden weight gain of two to three pounds in one day, or five pounds in a week
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles and legs

How is heart failure diagnosed?

You may experience symptoms of heart failure at any time, especially after you have had a cardiac event or ongoing chronic condition, such as diabetes. In these cases, we recommend you see one of our board-certified cardiologists to talk about heart failure.

Our specialists will listen to your concerns and perform a physical. Depending on what they find, they may also perform or request follow-up appointments for you to have:

  • Diagnostic laboratory work (such as blood or urine tests)
  • Heart imaging scans (such as electrocardiograms or echocardiograms)
  • Other testing, such as exercise stress tests, nuclear imaging or cardiac catheterization procedures

Causes of heart failure

Many things can cause heart failure to begin, including:

  • Cardiac events, such as heart attacks
  • Cardiac conditions, such as heart arrhythmias, or diseases, such as coronary artery disease

You may also be at risk of developing heart failure if you:

  • Have had chemotherapy
  • Are obese
  • Have a heart valve condition

Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors and what steps you can take now to prevent heart disease.

How is heart failure treated?

Our hospitals offer heart failure clinics and prevention and treatment programs. They are designed to help you and your family understand the condition and find the treatment method that is best for you. In addition to developing personalized diet and exercise plans for you, some of the treatments we provide include:

  • Heart and vascular surgery, such as inserting ventricular assist devices (mechanical pumps that help the heart function) or pulmonary artery pressure monitors
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)
  • Diuretic infusions (intravenous medications)
  • Home inotropic infusion therapy (intravenous or infusion pump medications)
  • Ultrafiltration (salt and water removal)

Medications for heart failure

If your heart failure can be improved with medication, our cardiologists will review your medical history to find medications that are right for you. They will work closely with your other physicians and prescribe only the medications you need.

Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) 

An LVAD is an incredible mechanical device that helps blood move through the body when the heart can no longer do this job alone. It involves an internal implant as well as a small external piece that can be worn under or over your clothing.

Typically, patients who have advanced heart failure and have not responded to or improved from other treatments may be candidates for an LVAD. Many of our heart specialists offer this treatment and can help you find out if you can benefit from it. You might be able to receive an LVAD if you:

  • Are experiencing heart failure that may reverse itself after temporary support, such as heart failure related to viral infections and postpartum heart disease
  • Need a heart transplant but do not yet have a viable donor
  • Are not a candidate for a heart transplant but need a long-term LVAD to manage extreme heart failure

Heart transplantation

Once all medications and other treatment options have been tried without success, you may need a heart transplant to treat heart failure. Our heart surgeons and surgical teams are highly trained to perform this operation with precision and accuracy. They will be with you every step of the way if you need a heart transplant, making sure you are as informed and prepared as possible.

Heart failure specialists

Additionally, you will find our heart failure programs offer multidisciplinary teams. These teams include cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, nutritionists, cardiovascular physical therapists and others. They all work together to effectively manage and treat your heart failure. This approach ensures you get comprehensive, high-quality and expert care.

Preventing heart failure

The best way to prevent heart failure is to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle, as advised by your doctor. This may include:

  • Beginning an exercise program
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking

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