Heart failure management is a treatment strategy that can improve your heart function, reduce your symptoms, and lengthen your life. The strategy combines several treatments, including lifestyle changes, medications, and heart procedures. Here are the details:
Self Management — MAWDS for Heart Failure
There are five things you need to do every day at home to manage your heart failure. The following MAWDS acronym may help you remember — and follow — these basic steps:
- Medications: Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.
- Activity: Stay active every day.
- Weight: Weigh yourself each day.
- Diet: Follow your diet.
- Symptoms: Recognize your symptoms and know when to call for help.
Heart Failure Medications
Almost every heart failure treatment plan includes medications. We've listed the most common heart failure medications below:
- ACE inhibitors (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors), ARBs (angiotensin II receptor antagonists) and Beta Blockers: These medications relieve stress on the heart’s pumping action. They improve symptoms and reduce hospitalizations for patients with heart failure.
- Diuretics: These medications rid your body of excess fluid.
- Blood Thinners: These medications can reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
- Digitalis: This medication helps decrease heart failure symptoms.
Some patients with heart failure benefit from different heart procedures, including the following:
- Angioplasty, Stent Placement, or Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: These procedures either open or "bypass" blocked arteries and improve blood flow to your heart muscle.
- Heart Valve Repair or Replacement: Patients with heart failure may have damage to their heart valves. Surgical repair or replacement may be needed to improve the heart’s pumping function.
- Biventricular Pacemaker or Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD): These are small electronic devices that are implanted below your collarbone. They help time the electrical signals in your heart so your heart beats more effectively. This therapy is also called biventricular pacing or cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT).
Managing Other Medical Conditions
An important part of treating heart failure is carefully managing other medical conditions that can make your heart failure worse. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. If you take medications to treat these conditions, take them faithfully.
Heart Transplant and Ventricular Assist Devices
Heart transplantation and ventricular assist devices are therapies for advanced heart failure. Advanced heart failure means you have tried the treatments listed above, but your heart failure keeps getting worse.
You may want to talk to your physician about heart transplant and ventricular assist devices when:
- You can no longer walk a block without shortness of breath.
- Your doctor decreases your heart failure medication because you have low blood pressure.
- You need more and more diuretic medication to control your weight.
- You've been admitted to the hospital because your heart failure is significantly worse.
- You have received a biventricular pacemaker or ICD (also called cardiac resynchronization therapy) — but your symptoms have not improved.
- You are dissatisfied with the quality of your life and can no longer do things you once enjoyed.
Learn more about heart transplant and ventricular assist devices.
A heart transplant replaces a severely diseased heart with a new heart from a human organ donor.
Ventricular assist devices are implantable pumps for patients with heart failure.