Heart Treatment by Cardiologist in Delray Beach
Heart failure affects some 6 million people in the United States. It is a leading cause of hospitalization in people over age 65. While heart failure may sound like the heart has stopped working, it actually means that the heart’s pumping is weaker. This weakening leads to slower blood flow and insufficient oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the body’s organs. The heart tries to compensate by expanding to hold more blood, or by thickening, which helps keep blood moving, but over time the heart muscle weakens further.
What causes heart failure?
Boynton Beach cardiologists explain that there are many conditions that can lead to heart failure, including:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Cardiomyopathy (damage to heart tissue due to infections or substance abuse)
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Birth defects
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Heart Failure
Common symptoms of heart failure include coughing, fatigue and general weakness, loss of appetite, the need to urinate at night, and a pulse that feels fast or irregular. Shortness of breath is also common, as are swollen feet and ankles and sudden weight gain. If you notice more than one of these symptoms at a time, and the cause is unknown, schedule an appointment with a Boynton Beach vascular doctor.
Your doctor will take a thorough medical history and will examine you to see if your heart is enlarged or produces abnormal heart sounds. He or she will assess fluid retention in the legs and abdomen, as well as any swelling or tenderness of your liver. Blood and urine tests will also be taken to check for problems with the liver and kidneys, as well as for a hormone called brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) that is increased when someone has heart failure. Finally, an electrocardiogram (EKG) may be used, although it cannot diagnose heart failure. It can, however, detect an enlarged heart, the presence of heart disease, and the presence of abnormal heart rhythms.
An excellent diagnostic test for heart failure is echocardiography, which uses painless ultrasound to evaluate your heart’s function and changes in the structure of your heart.
How is heart failure treated?
There are two main aspects to treatment for heart failure: Monitoring and self-care, and medications, surgery and devices. In terms of monitoring and self-care, you’ll need to know your body very well, including the symptoms that indicate your heart failure is getting worse. Those symptoms include sudden weight gain (over a day or two) and shortness of breath. Limit alcohol, salt, and fluids, per your doctor’s instructions, and don’t smoke. You’ll have regular medical checkups with your heart care specialists in Boynton Beach to assess your heart’s functioning and how well your medications are working.
In terms of medications, surgeries and devices, you may take some medicines to help your heart muscle work better and to keep your blood from clotting. You may also take cholesterol lowering medications and other drugs reduce damage to heart tissue. You will probably have to avoid medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen, as they may make your heart failure worse.
Surgeries to improve blood flow or repair damaged heart valves may be needed, and pacemakers can help treat slow heart rates.
Can heart failure be prevented?
Often, yes. Most cases of heart failure can be prevented by maintaining a balanced diet, a healthy weight, and a regular exercise program.