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Congestive heart failure is common. About 5.7 million people in the United States experience heart failure. It results in about 300,000 deaths each year.
*Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Congestive Heart Failure Treatment

Currently, heart failure has no cure and, thus, it is a chronic condition that needs lifelong attention. But through a combination of self-monitoring, lifestyle changes, medication, surgery and – in extreme cases – heart transplants, patients with congestive heart failure can live longer and more active lives.

Taking Care of Congestive Heart Failure at Home

Making lifestyle changes can help relieve the symptoms of heart failure and prevent it from worsening. Among the most beneficial changes include:

  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption
  • Restrict sodium intake
  • Weigh yourself daily to keep track of fluid retention
  • Maintain a healthy weight and diet
  • Exercise and reduce stress
  • Elevate feet and legs if they become swollen

Taking Care of Congestive Heart Failure with Medication

Your WellStar Cardiac Network physician may prescribe a combination of medications if you have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Some of these medicines include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These medications help ease pressure on blood vessels by blocking the formation of natural chemicals that narrow the vessels, thus decreasing the workload on the heart. Examples include enalapril (Vasotec®), lisinopril (Prinivil®, Zestril®) and captopril (Capoten®).
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers. These medications help relax blood vessels by blocking the action – not the formation – of natural chemicals that narrow vessels. These include losartan (Cozaar®) and valsartan (Diovan®).
  • Digoxin (Lanoxin®). This medication, also known as digitalis, increases the strength of your heart muscle contractions but tends to slow the heartbeat.
  • Diuretics. Sometimes called “water pills,” these medications work on your kidneys to help your body eliminate sodium and water, thus reducing blood volume. Diuretics most often prescribed for heart failure include bumetanide (Bumex®) and furosemide (Lasix®). Because diuretics also cause you to eliminate essential minerals such as potassium and magnesium, your WellStar Cardiac Network physician may also prescribe supplements or an aldosterone antagonist, a diuretic that maintains potassium levels.
  • Beta blockers. Usually combined with a diuretic, these medications reduce the heart’s workload and expand blood vessels, thus causing your heart to work slower with less force. These may include carvedilol (Coreg®), metoprolol (Lopressor®) and bisoprolol (Zebeta®).

Taking Care of Congestive Heart Failure with Surgery

In some cases, your WellStar Cardiac Network physician may recommend surgery or medical devices to treat the problems that have led to congestive heart failure. Such treatments include:

  • Coronary bypass surgery. If your doctor determines that severely blocked arteries have contributed to your heart failure, he or she may recommend this procedure in which a vein from your leg, or artery from your arm or chest, replaces a blocked artery in your heart to allow the blood to flow more freely.
  • Angioplasty. An alternative to coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty involves threading a catheter through your blood vessels to the affected artery and expanding a balloon or stent to push aside cholesterol deposits so that blood may flow more easily.
  • Heart Valve Repair or Replacement. If a faulty heart valve causes your heart failure, your WellStar Cardiologist may modify the valve (valvuloplasty) to eliminate backward blood flow, repair the valve such as tightening or replacing the ring around the valve (annuloplasty), or replace it with an artificial or prosthetic valve.
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). An ICD is a heart-monitoring device implanted under your skin and attached to your heart with small wires. If your heart rhythm is dangerously irregular, the ICD shocks the heart back into its normal rhythm.
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) or biventricular pacing. Pacemakers are devices that control the rhythm of your heart. Implanted by a WellStar Cardiologist specializing in electrical disorders, the pacemakers send timed electrical impulses to both of the heart’s lower chambers (the right and left ventricles) to ensure that your heart pumps in an efficient and coordinated manner.
  • Heart pumps. Also known as left ventricular assist devices or LVADs, these devices are implanted into the abdomen or chest and attached to a weakened heart to aid it in pumping.
  • Heart transplant. When other surgical procedures and treatments fail to maintain the affected heart, a transplant to replace the heart with a healthy donor heart may be the only recourse.