Heart Failure Workup and Management in New York

Heart failure is a serious medical condition that occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should, resulting in an inability to meet the body’s needs. Certain conditions, such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure, can gradually leave your heart too weak or stiff to fill properly and pump efficiently. Injuries to the heart resulting from a variety of conditions ranging from large heart attacks, viruses that effect the heart, to genetic syndromes and heart rhythm abnormalities can, over time, cause the heart to dilate and become “weak” or receive blood inefficiently, resulting in the symptoms of heart failure.

Some of the more common signs and symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath with minimal exertion or at rest. Shortness of breath when lying flat, or awakening at night unable to catch your breath are other symptoms.  Swelling of your legs or ankles, and frequent coughing, especially of bloody or “frothy” sputum are some physical signs.  General severe fatigue and inability to do daily activities you were formerly able to perform can often be the only symptom.

Unfortunately, not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed. However, appropriate and skilled management of heart failure improves prognosis, reduces the chance of being hospitalized, and improves your quality of life. Additionally, careful diagnostic examination of a patient’s medical history and physical examination can provide important information about the underlying causes and irregularities of heart failure. Workup and management can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure to help you live a longer and healthier life.

Heart Failure Workup in NYC

To diagnose heart failure, a physician will look at your medical and family history, evaluate your symptoms, and perform a thorough physical examination. Your physician will also check for the presence of risk factors, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, among many others. After the physical exam, your physician can order basic laboratory tests to identify underlying cardiac irregularities and conditions that can lead to or exacerbate heart failure, and evaluate the severity and prognosis of your condition.  Some of these tests are listed below:

  • Blood Tests – A sample of your blood is used to check your kidney, liver and thyroid function and to look for indicators of other diseases that affect the heart. A blood test can also be done to check for a chemical called N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide, which may help in diagnosing heart failure if the diagnosis isn’t clear when used with other tests.
  • Chest X-Ray – X-Ray images help your physician see the conditions of your lungs and heart.
  • Electrocardiogram – Records the electrical activity of your heart. It helps your physician diagnose heart rhythm problems and damage to your heart from a heart attack that may be causing heart failure.
  • Echocardiogram – Distinguishes systolic heart failure from diastolic heart failure. It can also help indicate valve problems, evidence of previous heart attacks, other heart abnormalities, and some unusual causes of heart failure. This is the most common method used to evaluate the “ejection fraction”, which is the percentage of blood that your left ventricle ejects with each beat.
  • Stress Test – Can help to guide long-term treatment decisions, especially when combined with measurements of your body’s oxygen consumption. It measures how your heart and blood vessels respond to exertion and helps tell if you have coronary artery disease that may be contributing to your heart failure symptoms.
  • Coronary angiogram – Identifies narrowed arteries to your heart that are a possible cause of heart failure. Can be performed invasively, or by CT scan, but both involve the injection of iodine contrast.
  • Myocardial biopsy – Can be used to diagnose certain types of heart muscle diseases that cause heart failure, but is no longer commonly used.

Results of these tests can help your physician determine the cause of your symptoms and develop an appropriate individualized treatment plan for you.

As debilitating as heart failure can be, there is still a great deal that you can do to improve your condition. Proper management will generally significantly improve prognosis and symptoms, and treatments for “end-stage” heart failure are being rapidly developed with very encouraging successes. Staying in control and being on top of your heart condition is extremely beneficial. Learning about heart failure, following your physician’s recommendations, taking your prescribed medications, and making lifestyle changes may significantly improve your prognosis, and is a crucial part of management of this condition.

Managing your heart failure with lifestyle changes through eating well, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and self-monitoring can make a real difference in both your symptoms and attitude. Your physician will usually recommend a diet low in sodium and high in fruits and vegetables as well as regular exercise that you should make sure you are following. It is also critical to stick to your drug treatment regimen, as new medications continue to be developed that have shown tremendous promise!  Besides, if your medications are sitting in bottles, they are not helping you.  Make sure you discuss all possible side effects with your physician.

At Preventive Cardiology New York, we offer heart failure workup and management as one of our Consultative Cardiology Services. Contact us today if you are experiencing signs and symptoms of heart failure. We take great pride in using our expertise for you and look forward to hearing from you!