Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure? - Virtua Medical Service

Keeping Your Heart Pumping

Heart failure doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped working entirely. It just needs help pumping blood as it should. At Virtua, we’ll help you manage your heart failure—from diagnosis and treatment to cardiopulmonary rehab and personalized home care programs. Let us help you find the best ways to care for your heart.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure develops when the heart can’t keep up with the demands of your body. Essentially, your heart is a pump that delivers oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your organs. When your heart can’t pump enough blood, you feel weak and fluids build up in your lungs. Think of your heart as a sump pump and your lungs as the basement. If the sump pump doesn’t work hard enough, the basement floods.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

Heart failure develops over time. So, you may not realize the pain or discomfort you feel are heart failure symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble sleeping when you’re flat on your back
  • Swollen legs, feet or ankles
  • Fatigue or dizziness
  • Chronic cough
  • Lack of appetite or nausea

Who is at risk for heart failure?

Tell your doctor if you have a family history of heart attack or heart failure. You could be at higher risk. Other risk factors are:

  • A previous heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Age, as chances of heart failure increase as we get older

How can you prevent heart failure?

Care for your heart by caring for your whole body. Here are some things you can do to prevent heart failure:

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Be active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid salty foods

How is heart failure diagnosed?

Talk to your doctor about your family history of heart failure, heart attack, and coronary artery disease. Knowing your risk is the first step in diagnosing heart failure. Next, your doctor may order a series of tests to better understand the condition of your heart. These tests include:

  • Chest X-ray: to check for fluid in your lungs
  • Blood test: to rule out other reasons why you may feel short of breath
  • BNP (B-type Natriuretic Peptide) blood test: to see if levels of BNP are elevated in your body, which can be sign of heart failure
  • Echocardiogram (ECG): to see if your heart is damaged or stiff
  • Stress test: to check your heart’s strength during physical activity

How is heart failure treated?

At Virtua, you’re a valuable part of the care team. We’ll answer all of your questions and make sure you understand your care plan. Treatments include:

  • Diuretics (water pills): medications that reduce extra fluid in the heart and lungs
  • Heart failure medications
  • Bypass surgery: a surgery in which blood vessels from another part of your body are used to go around a blocked artery in your heart
  • Left ventricular assist device: a mechanical device that helps pump blood from the lower chambers of the heart to the body
  • Implantable pacemakers and defibrillators: devices to help control your heart rhythm
  • Managing risk factors such as blood pressure and weight
  • Tracking blood pressure and weight changes

Is there support for people with heart failure?

Our unique home care program supports you as you manage heart failure. Your care team will visit you at home to:

  • Review medications and dosages
  • Discuss nutrition and lifestyle goals
  • Make sure you’re drinking enough water

In addition, Virtua’s accredited cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program—made up of cardiologists, cardiac rehab nurse specialists, dietitians, and exercise physiologists—can show you how to improve your heart health and prevent future heart events.

Managing your heart failure is a team effort.

Make an appointment

Learn more about our nationally recognized heart failure program. If you have questions about your heart health, make an appointment with a Virtua heart care expert in South Jersey. Call 888-847-8823.

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