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Doctors at Blessing’s Heart & Vascular Center provide a range of heart failure therapies that enable you to enjoy a better quality of life.

Signs of Heart Failure

A weakened heart pumps less blood to organs, which affects their ability to function. This causes some organs, such as the lungs and kidneys, to retain fluid. Over time, signs of fluid retention and heart failure progressively worsen.

Symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down or after exertion like climbing stairs

  • Swelling (edema) in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach and veins in the neck

  • Weight gain

  • Unusual fatigue

  • Frequent urination

  • A cough that worsens at night or when lying down

  • Impaired thinking

Types of Heart Failure

There are several types of heart failure including:

  • Congestive heart failure, which occurs when organs cannot properly function due to lack of blood flow from your weakened heart. Fluid backs up into your lungs, liver, abdomen and lower extremities. Fluid in the lungs, called pulmonary edema, makes breathing difficult.

  • Left-sided heart failure, or systolic dysfunction, which occurs when your weakened heart does not contract with enough force. As a result, your heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body.

  • Right-sided heart failure, or diastolic dysfunction, which occurs when heart ventricles that collect blood become stiff, preventing your heart from filling with enough blood.

Causes of Heart Failure

Heart disease is the leading cause of heart failure. People with heart disease often have atherosclerosis, a condition that causes plaque to build up and narrow the arteries. Narrowed arteries restrict blood flow to your heart. Learn more about heart disease.

Other risk factors for heart failure include:

  • Damage from previous heart attack

  • Congenital heart defects present since birth

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart valve disease

  • Arrhythmia

  • Heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis)

  • Diabetes

  • Excess weight

  • Thyroid problems

  • Drug or alcohol abuse

  • Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation

Diagnosing Heart Failure

In addition to a physical exam and evaluation of symptoms, our heart specialists use the latest technology to quickly and accurately diagnose heart failure.

Our tests include:

  • Echocardiogram (echo): This ultrasound test measures your heart’s pumping action, which is known as ejection fraction.

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG): This procedure measures your heart’s electrical activity. The reading shows whether your heart is enlarged, has an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or if there are signs of damage from a heart attack.

  • Nuclear heart scan: This test shows blood flow and supply to the heart and reveals whether your heart tissue is damaged. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is one type of nuclear heart scan.

  • Coronary angiogram: Your doctor injects dye through a catheter into your coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. The dye flows into your blood vessels and any blockages show up on special X-rays.

  • Chest X-rays: These images show if your heart is enlarged due to possible heart failure or if your lungs contain fluid (pulmonary edema) due to heart failure.

  • Stress test: Your doctor monitors your heart rate as you walk slowly on a treadmill. An exercise stress test can detect artery disease and gauge your body’s response to your heart’s weakened pumping action.

  • Holter monitor: This battery-operated portable EKG/ECG device continuously measures and records your heart’s electrical activity for up to 48 hours.

Heart Failure Treatments

There is no cure for heart failure, but treatment can minimize symptoms and prevent further heart damage. Our heart specialists work with you to develop a treatment plan that helps you enjoy life to the fullest.

Heart failure treatment options at Blessing include:

  • Medications: Depending on the type and severity of your condition, your doctor may prescribe medicine to lower blood pressure, eliminate excess fluid, regulate your heart rate or relax blood vessels.

  • Lifestyle changes: Your doctor can help you make certain lifestyle changes that will improve your heart health. These changes may include eating a healthier diet, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and monitoring your blood pressure.

  • Heart devices: As your heart weakens, you may need a device such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to help your heart maintain a healthy rhythm. Learn more about heart surgery at Blessing.

  • Cardiac rehab: At Blessing’s cardiac rehab program, our team of cardiac specialists and exercise physiologists work with you to improve your heart health and fitness level. We also have dietitians and social workers who can help you stop smoking and eat healthier. Learn more about cardiac rehab.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, please call 217-214-3424To view upcoming heart related events please click here.