FEBRUARY IS AMERICAN HEART MONTH HEART FAILURE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW
Over 6millionAmerican adults suffer fromheart failure, and that number is expected to grow to 8million by 2030 according to the American Heart Association. What is heart failure? What causes it? How can it be managed? And is there a linkage between COVID-19 and heart failure? Cardiovascular disease specialist Clarence Gill, MD, answers these and other frequently asked questions about heart failure. Dr. Gill is an assistant professor atMcGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. He is affiliated withMemorial HermannHealth Systemand sees patients at Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital. What is heart failure? Heart failure is the inability of the heart to meet the metabolic demands of the body. There are two types of heart failure—heart failure with reduced heart function and heart failure with preserved heart function. Heart failure with reduced heart function is due to a weakening of the heart muscle. Whether that’s due to a heart attack, a blocked artery, a valve disorder or a thyroid disorder. In patients with heart failure with preserved heart function, the cause could be either valvular disease, in particular aortic stenosis, or from uncontrolled high Symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, especiallywith exertion, and fatigue or tiredness. Another common symptom is swelling, especially in the legs. And individuals with heart disease may have decreased appetite, dizziness or lightheadedness (even to the point of passing out) and heart palpitations, meaning a fast heart rate. Some patients can develop chest pain. And some will have an inability to lie f lat or to sleep well due to shortness of breath. What are the causes? One of the most common causes of heart failure is coronary artery disease, or heart artery blockage. But heart failure can also be caused by viral or bacterial infections, thyroid disorders, undiagnosed sleep apnea, genetic disorders and valvular (heart valve) diseases. blood pressure (hypertension). What are the symptoms?
Those are just a few of the many causes of heart failure. Is heart failure the same thing as heart attack? No, they are two separate entities, although heart attacks can lead to heart failure. A heart attack is caused by a blockage in an artery. And that blockage can result in decreased supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle, which can cause death of that heart muscle. And that is what can lead to the development of heart failure. Are some people more susceptible than others? Men and women are equally affected. People who tend to be at higher risk of developing heart failure are patients with other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. How is it diagnosed? Start by seeing your doctor and explaining your symptoms to them. After performing a physical exam, they might order an electrocardiogram (a heart tracing), bloodwork and/or an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). Based on the echocardiogram results, there are a couple of pathways. If the heart function is preserved, theymight order additional tests, including a cardiac MRI. If the heart function is reduced, then the next step would be to performa heart catheterization or coronary angiogram, because one of the most common causes of heart failure is coronary artery disease, or heart artery blockage. How can I prevent getting heart failure? While there’s nothing you can do when it comes to genetics, you can prevent or slow the progression of heart failure by eating a healthy diet, exercising andmanaging your risk factors for related medical problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Is there a link between COVID-19 and heart failure? While there is no proven link between COVID-19 and long-term risk of heart failure, we do know that acute, severe COVID-19 infection can lead to inf lammation of the heart, calledmyocarditis, which can sometimes lead
to the development of acute heart failure. What treatments are available for heart failure at Memorial Hermann Pearland? Treatment depends on heart function, but the initial treatment is typically medication. If there are blocked arteries, we can open
Clarence Gill, MD Cardiovascular Disease Specialist
themwith either a stent or bypass surgery. It’s important to stay in close follow-upwith your primary care physician and cardiologist to monitor blood work and the other risk factors for heart disease. At Memorial Hermann Pearland, we have the ability to diagnose and treat most cases of heart failure. We can provide medication and open blocked arteries using stents. Andwe can implant defibrillators and pacemakers. Patients who are inmore advanced stages of heart failure can be seamlessly transferred to the Center for Advanced Heart Failure at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center for more advanced therapies, such as mechanical circulatory support using a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) or a heart transplant. Are there any new advancements on the horizon at Memorial Hermann to treat heart failure? Memorial Hermann participates in numerous research studies, called clinical trials, to find new medications and devices to treat heart failure.We can evaluate patients at Memorial Hermann Pearland for those trials, to determine if they meet the criteria for enrollment. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of heart attack, seek immediate emergency medical attention. If you believe you are at risk for—or are experiencing symptoms of—heart failure, talk to your primary care physician or a cardiologist right away. Early diagnosis and treatment can extend and improve your quality of life.
To learn more, or to schedule an appointment with a Memorial Hermann affiliated physician, visit memorialhermann.org/heart
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PEARLAND - FRIENDSWOOD EDITION • FEBRUARY 2022
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