congestive heart failure

treatment and prevention of heart disease

Conventional Medicine for Heart Disease Treatment

Surgical Methods for Heart Disease

Experimental Treatments for Heart Disease

Warning Signs for Heart Disease

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conventional m edicine for Heart Disease Treatment

Doctors usually treat heart failure with a combination of medications. Depending on your symptoms, you might take one, two or more of these drugs. Several types of drugs have proved useful in the treatment of heart failure. They include:

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These drugs help people with heart failure live longer and feel better. ACE inhibitors are a type of vasodilator, a drug that widens or dilates blood vessels to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow and decrease the workload on the heart. Examples include enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) and captopril (Capoten). ACE inhibitors also blunt some of the effects of hormones that promote salt and water retention. ACE inhibitors can cause an irritating cough in some people. It may be best to put up with the cough, if you can, to gain the medication's benefits. But be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Switching to another ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) may relieve the problem.

Angiotensin II (A-II) receptor blockers (ARBs). These drugs, which include losartan (Cozaar) and valsartan (Diovan), have many of the beneficial effects of ACE inhibitors, but they don't cause a persistent cough. They may be an alternative for people who can't tolerate ACE inhibitors.

Digoxin (Lanoxin). This drug, also referred to as digitalis, increases the strength of your heart muscle contractions. It also tends to slow the heartbeat. Digoxin reduces heart failure symptoms and improves your ability to live with the condition.

Beta blockers. This class of drug slows your heart rate and reduces blood pressure. Examples include carvedilol (Coreg), metoprolol (Lopressor) and bisoprolol (Zebeta). These medicines also reduce the risk of some abnormal heart rhythms. Beta blockers may reduce signs and symptoms of heart failure and improve heart function.

Diuretics. Often called water pills, diuretics make you urinate more frequently and keep fluid from collecting in your body. Commonly prescribed diuretics for heart failure include bumetanide (Bumex) and furosemide (Lasix). The drugs also decrease fluid in your lungs, so you can breathe more easily. Because diuretics make your body lose potassium and magnesium, your doctor may also prescribe supplements of these minerals. If you're taking a diuretic, your doctor will likely monitor levels of potassium and magnesium in your blood through regular blood tests.

Aldosterone antagonists. These drugs include spironolactone (Aldactone) and eplerenone (Inspra). They are primarily potassium-sparing diuretics, but they have additional properties that help the heart work better, may reverse scarring of the heart and may help people with severe heart failure live longer. Unlike some other diuretics, spironolactone can raise the level of potassium in your blood to dangerous levels.

A medication called BiDil is a single pill that combines hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate — both of which dilate and relax the blood vessels. BiDil increases survival when added to standard therapy in black people with advanced heart failure. This is the first drug studied and approved for a specific racial group. Further studies will be necessary to determine if this combination medicine will be helpful for others with heart failure.

You'll probably need to take two or more medications to treat heart failure. Your doctor may prescribe other heart medications as well — such as nitrates for chest pain, a statin to lower cholesterol or blood-thinning medications to help prevent blood clots — along with heart failure medications.

You may be hospitalized for a few days if you have a flare up of heart failure symptoms. While in the hospital, you may receive additional medications such as inotropes (dobutamine, milrinone) and intravenous (IV) vasodilators (IV nitroglycerin). These drugs work quickly to help your heart pump better and relieve your symptoms. You may also receive supplemental oxygen through a mask or small tubes placed in your nose. If you have severe heart failure, you may need to use supplemental oxygen long term.

People hospitalized with severe heart failure may be given an intravenous drug called nesiritide (Natrecor). Nesiritide is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring hormone in the body called brain natriuretic peptide. BNP is secreted in high levels by the heart when it's overloaded with pressure and its volume is expanded. However, it's not clear if nesiritide is better than other intravenous medications for severe heart failure. Studies are ongoing to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of nesiritide in heart failure.

surgery and medical devices for Heart Disease

In some cases, doctors recommend surgery to treat the underlying problem that led to heart failure. For example, a damaged heart valve may be repaired or, if necessary, replaced with a new one. Doctors recommend coronary bypass surgery to treat severely narrowed coronary arteries that are contributing to heart failure.

Researchers continue to search for new and better ways to treat heart failure. Some treatments being studied and used in certain people include:

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs). ICDs are a device implanted under the skin and attached to the heart with small wires. The ICD monitors the heart rhythm. If the heart starts beating at a dangerous rhythm, the ICD shocks it back into normal rhythm. Sometimes a biventricular pacemaker is combined with an ICD for people with severe heart failure.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) or biventricular pacing. A biventricular pacemaker sends timed electrical impulses to both of the heart's lower chambers (the left and right ventricles) so that they pump in synchrony and in a more efficient, coordinated manner. As many as half of people with heart failure have abnormalities in their heart's electrical system that cause their already weak heart muscle to beat in an uncoordinated fashion. This inefficient muscle contraction wastes the heart's limited energy and may cause heart failure to worsen. Sometimes a biventricular pacemaker is combined with an ICD for people at greatest risk of rhythm problems.

Heart pumps. These mechanical devices, called left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), are implanted into the abdomen and attached to a weakened heart to help it pump. Doctors first used heart pumps to help keep heart transplant candidates alive while they waited for a donor heart. LVADs are now being considered as an alternative to transplantation. Implanted heart pumps can significantly extend and improve the lives of some people with end-stage heart failure who aren't eligible for or able to undergo heart transplantation or are waiting for a new heart.

Some people have such severe heart failure that surgery or medications don't help. They may need to have their diseased heart replaced with a healthy donor heart. Heart transplants have dramatically improved the survival and quality of life of people with severe heart failure. However, candidates for transplantation often have to wait years before a suitable donor heart is found. Some transplant candidates improve during this waiting period through drug treatment or device therapy and can be removed from the transplant waiting list.

experimental treatments for Heart Disease

Cardiac wrap surgery. Researchers are studying a technique that wraps a failing heart in a mesh bag, helping to prevent further failure. A surgeon pulls the mesh wrap over the base of the heart and attaches it with stitches. The goal is to prevent a weakened heart from enlarging (dilating) and failing further. Studies are ongoing.

Ventricular restoration surgery. This surgery is being used experimentally to treat some people with heart failure caused by a heart attack. During the surgery, doctors remove scar tissue in the ventricular muscle caused by a heart attack and reshape the remaining healthy tissue to restore a more normal elliptical left ventricle shape. Reducing the size of and reshaping the left ventricle help restore normal function to the pumping mechanism.

Enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). This noninvasive technique has been used as a treatment for heart-related chest pain, and researchers are studying this treatment to see if it is beneficial for people with heart failure. Inflatable pressure cuffs are placed on the calves, thighs and buttocks. These cuffs are inflated and deflated in sync with your heartbeat. The theory is that EECP increases blood flow back to the heart.

Warning Signs for Heart Disease

Call your health care provider if weakness, increased cough or sputum production, sudden weight gain or swelling, or other new or unexplained symptoms develop.

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you experience severe crushing chest pain, fainting, or rapid and irregular heartbeat (particularly if other symptoms accompany a rapid and irregular heartbeat).

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