Heart failure is an umbrella term that describes many different types and causes of disease. It does not mean the heart has stopped working – it means that the heart muscle has become weakened or stiff, leaving it unable to efficiently pump blood through the body. Reasons can include prior heart attacks, familial diseases, a viral illness, and countless other causes.
With heart failure, you may not have any symptoms or they may vary from mild to severe and include:
If you have heart failure, chances are you have (or had) one or more of the conditions listed below. Some of these can be present without your knowing it. Typically, these conditions cause the "wear and tear" that leads to heart failure. Having more than one of these factors dramatically increases your risk.
Coronary artery disease: When cholesterol and fatty deposits build up in the heart's arteries, less blood can reach the heart muscle. This buildup is known as atherosclerosis. The result may be chest pain (angina) or, if blood flow becomes totally obstructed, a heart attack. Coronary artery disease can also contribute to having high blood pressure, which may lead to heart failure over time.
High blood pressure (hypertension): Uncontrolled HBP is a major risk factor for developing heart failure. When pressure in the blood vessels is too high, the heart must pump harder than normal to keep the blood circulating. This takes a toll on the heart, and over time the chambers get larger and weaker. For those at risk of developing heart failure, your doctor might prescribe medication to get your blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg.
Abnormal heart valves: Heart valve problems can result from disease, infection (endocarditis) or a defect present at birth. When the valves don't open or close completely during each heartbeat, the heart muscle has to pump harder to keep the blood moving. If the workload becomes too great, heart failure results.
Heart muscle disease (dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, infiltrative disease) or inflammation (myocarditis): Any damage to the heart muscle – whether because of drug or alcohol use, viral infections or unknown reasons – increases the risk of heart failure. The infiltrative cardiomyopathies (amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, and hemochromatosis) are acquired and inherited diseases characterized by the deposition of abnormal biological substances within the heart that can lead to cardiac dysfunction, arrhythmias or heart failure. Cardiomyopathies can cause the heart muscle to become larger or more rigid, which can make it harder for the heart to pump blood properly and maintain a normal rhythm.
Heart defects present at birth (congenital heart disease): If the heart and its chambers don't form correctly, the healthy parts have to work harder to compensate.
Summa Health heart failure experts are specially trained to assess, treat and provide acute and long-term care for people with any stage of heart failure. To optimize outcomes, we provide a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary team approach led by heart failure physicians. This team collaborates on all stages of care, from diagnosis to personalized treatment planning through follow-up and chronic disease management. We surround you with expertise and compassion and partner with you on your care.
While there is no cure for heart failure, there are ways to work with your doctor to control your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Depending on your condition, your individualized treatment care plan may include:
Summa Health also offers the personal support you need to navigate your care journey with confidence. We help you and your loved ones understand the condition, treatment and ways to provide support. Our wrap-around supportive services include:
Recent studies show that patients who participate in a structured heart failure program – like the one here at Summa Health – have fewer complications and hospitalizations than those patients who don't. Through our program, you will learn how to take a more active role in minimizing your risks for complications and hospitalizations. The program also is designed to improve your health by partnering with your primary care physician to offer extra support and ongoing monitoring of your heart failure status.
Summa Health System at Akron Campus is accredited by the American College of Cardiology Accreditation Services, Heart Failure Base Accreditation since 2017. The award recognizes our commitment to ensuring that heart failure patients receive the best treatments according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines founded in the latest scientific evidence. The goal is speeding recovery and reducing hospital readmission for patients with heart failure.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure, talk to your doctor about getting a referral to see a Summa Health Heart Failure Cardiologist. To learn more about our heart failure program, schedule an appointment for an evaluation at 330.253.8195.