Recognize and Treat Heart Failure, It Is All Around Us

Armen Hareyan's picture

Heart Failure Treatment

All of sudden, it seems, we are hearing about heart failure.

People we know, or grandparents and parents of friends, who attribute their tiredness, shortness of breath or even swelling around their ankles to signs of getting older, are being told, when they finally mention these symptoms to a physician, that they may be suffering from heart failure.

Experts say that heart failure remains a growing problem in the United States and is the only cardiovascular disease that is increasing in prevalence, even as the overall incidence of heart disease is slowly dropping. With an aging population, including Baby Boomers who are beginning to reach retirement age, it is estimated that roughly 550,000 people in this country will develop heart failure this year.

"Heart failure can affect all of us eventually because we are living longer," says Paul Mather, M.D., director of the Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Center at the Jefferson Heart Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, which was created to meet the rising demand for specialized heart care.


Simply stated, heart failure is a condition in which the lower chambers of the heart are not able to pump blood effectively. If a heart muscle has been damaged by long-term high blood pressure, heart disease, heart valve or heart muscle problems, it becomes more difficult for the heart to pump effectively.

"When diagnosed early, heart failure can be treated effectively with medications and lifestyle accommodations." says Dr. Mather, who is also associate professor of Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. "Furthermore, heart failure usually develops slowly."

When heart failure progresses to an advanced stage, the treatment required is aggressive. "Advanced heart failure is a critical, multi-organ disease process that affects people from head to toe, and that has to be dealt with through a unified, multidisciplinary approach to the disease process," Dr. Mather says.

That is the advantage of an advanced heart failure center: to provide specialized care. "An advanced heart failure center can offer one-stop shopping for patients' cardiac needs," says Dr. Mather, noting the availability of Jefferson's other medical specialties.

According to Daniel Marelli, M.D., surgical director of the Heart Transplant Program at the Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Center at Jefferson, the rising prevalence of heart failure has spurred a trend in the last five to 10 years to develop heart failure centers to help address the increasing patient volume and the need for specialized care.

"We can provide standard, tailored, aggressive heart failure therapy," Dr. Mather