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Mark Drazner, M.D. Answers Questions On Heart Failure

Mark Drazner, M.D. Answers Questions On: Heart Failure

What exactly is heart failure? Is it the same thing as a heart attack?

Heart failure is an all-too-common medical condition in which the body builds up too much fluid and/or the heart can’t pump enough blood around the body. It’s different from a heart attack, which occurs when the blood supply to the heart is interrupted. Heart failure is much more common in the elderly. More than 6 million people in the U.S. have this condition.

What can a person with a failing heart do to help themselves?

There are several medications and electrical devices that have been shown to be beneficial for patients with weak hearts. Patients should be sure and take advantage of them as recommended by their physician. A low-sodium diet is often strongly recommended, so it’s important to read the Nutrition Facts labels on food. And patients should weigh themselves daily in the morning – on the same scale. Changes in body weight from day to day reflect a buildup of fluid.

What if you need a heart transplant? What should you do?

Ask your doctor to refer you to a transplant center like UT Southwestern. You’ll be evaluated to see if your condition is severe enough to need a heart transplant and to determine if you have other medical conditions that may prevent you from getting a transplant. If you do, a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) may be used as an alternate form of treatment. They’re partial artificial hearts that can be utilized until you’re well enough for a transplant, or even indefinitely. The technology of LVADs is rapidly getting better, and they hold great promise to become a common treatment for heart failure.