Mirriam-Webster defines failure as “a state of inability to perform a normal function.” When I hear the word failure, I feel an overarching sense of dread looming over me. You know the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know you are headed to something that’s pretty bad and you have no control? Now imagine putting the word “heart” in front of the word. Heart Failure. My heart is in “a state of inability to perform a normal function?” At first glance, the term brings scary to a whole new level.
Heart failure is actually a widely-used diagnosis, with over half a million new cases diagnosed each year. Simply stated, it means your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. It can vary in severity from mild, where the symptoms, while still requiring treatment, are not life-threatening, to end-stage, where the heart actually does fail to pump and will need major surgery or powerful drug therapy.
Hope does exist, however, for such a scary sounding diagnosis. According to Dr. Allan Anderson, a cardiologist with the Advanced Heart Failure Clinic at Scott & White Heart & Vascular Institute, heart failure can be managed at home.
Some of the symptoms of heart failure include:
- shortness of breath, especially occurring during times of inactivity
- severe swelling in ankles
- any combination of the above
Early detection and diagnosis of heart failure is the first and most important step in treatment. Once diagnosed, patients, armed with a team of doctors, nurses and dietitians, can begin a treatment program that includes medication, education and lifestyle modifications to treat heart failure. As Dr. Anderson states, “It’s a team approach. While it requires the patient to make changes at home, our team will provide the encouragement and inspiration to help them every step of the way.”
A heart failure success story? That doesn’t sound so scary to me.