Heart Failure

About heart failure

Heart failure can occur when the heart muscle is significantly weakened. It is then unable to forcefully pump blood out to the body. The most common causes of heart failure are:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart valve disease
  • Enlargement and weakening of the heart muscle
  • Infection of heart valves or muscle
  • Severe lung disease

Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Congested lungs, shortness of breath and/or dry hacking cough
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, legs and/or abdomen
  • Weight gain from fluid retention, kidneys hold onto more fluid
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems (fluid pools in the lungs and can cause shortness of breath when you lie down)

Treatment of heart failure

Heart failure is not curable but it is controllable. It generally starts with medical management: medications along with low-salt diet, fluid restriction, moderate activity, rest and avoiding things that can make the condition worse, such as alcohol, tobacco and second-hand smoke.

Gundersen's Heart Failure Clinic treats heart failure with a combination of lifestyle changes and drug therapies. The clinic provides consistent and frequent follow-up care in collaboration with your primary provider.

When a patient with advanced heart failure has exhausted medical therapies he or she may be a candidate for an implanted ventricular assist device (VAD) as either a bridge to a heart transplant or, if not eligible for transplant, as a long-term support.

Additional information about heart failure is available from your doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider.

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