Heart Association Says Hope for Heart Failure Sufferers
Heart failure sounds like a death sentence and in generations past it was. Today, however, though the number of Americans suffering from the disease continues to increase, deaths are declining.
The American Heart Association released a report today suggesting that improved therapies are giving new hope to people whose lives are often severely restricted by heart failure. Dr. Gregg Fonarow, chairman of the association’s science committee and professor of cardiovascular medicine of the University of California said, “Despite the increasing number of people affected, the prognosis has steadily improved. There has been so much research and advancement in this area that what used to be a very dismal diagnosis is no longer the norm. Used appropriately, available medical and device therapies are even more effective than originally believed.
Sufferers of heart failure are well aware of the debilitating fatigue and shortness of breath that robs them of an active life. The condition is a chronic and progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood through the heart to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. When this happen, basic functions as walking and climbing stairs can become difficult as the heart struggles to provide sufficient blood.
Fortunately, for people with heart failure there is new hope that a significant amount of heart function can be restored. For instance, the use of mechanical support, such as artificial heart pumping devices, has proven remarkably successful in stabilizing the heart. Dr. Clyde Yancy of Northwestern University explained, “We can sustain patients long enough to not only allow for heart transplantation, but also to serve as definitive therapy and even more provocatively to support recovery of heart muscle function even when seemingly dramatic changes have taken place.”
The heart association also trumpeted its “Get with the Guidelines” heart failure program. The association says people with heart failure who are treated at hospitals using the program are more likely to live longer. In fact, Fonarow said, while hospital readmissions after treatment for heart failure have been a growing and costly issue, greater use of guideline-recommended therapies, improved care transitions, and enhanced participation in quality improvement efforts are key to turning this around.
“It’s important for a heart failure patient – and for caregivers – to be aware of what’s going on with their body during recovery and beyond and to quickly deal with any new or fluctuating symptoms,” he said. “Sometimes a quick and early call to your healthcare provider can make a big difference in getting you back on track rather than dismissing those symptoms until they require more drastic treatment.”