Few Americans realize exactly how common heart failure is. Heart failure understandably sounds like a rather dramatic condition and one that few people experience. However, around 20% of all Americans will develop heart failure at one point or another in their lifetimes. But due to the lack of education surrounding the condition, some people experience some of the warning signs of heart failure without even realizing it. This can leave them seeking help after there has already been considerable damage done to the system.
Fortunately, heart failure — even severe heart failure — is not necessarily a death sentence. It is a serious condition, to be sure. But with the right procedures and treatments, individuals can continue life despite experiencing heart failure. Below are some of the common treatments for heart failure conditions.
1. Heart Transplant
Perhaps one of the more famous — and perhaps seemingly extreme — treatments for heart failure is the heart transplant. A heart transplant is not the right treatment for everyone. But it is also not as risky as it once was. Many cardio surgeons perform countless heart transplant surgeries every year. It is now fairly commonplace for people to donate their organs after death, making more hearts available, although more are still needed as patients need specific matches in order for the transplant to be successful.
A heart transplant is not the immediate treatment that doctors jump to when patients begin experiencing the early warning signs of heart failure. Rather, it is prescribed after lots of careful evaluation. It is done to give people with irreparable heart failure new hearts. If a heart is essentially useless or will be in the near future, most patients require new hearts entirely in order to live. Transplants do often need to be replaced after certain increments of time, often around a decade, though this can depend on the condition of the heart and the lifestyle of the recipient along with their other medical conditions. But a transplant can give an individual a new lease on life.
In some cases, heart failure is treated with medication for lifelong maintenance. This type of treatment can begin soon after an individual begins to experience the warning signs of heart failure and is diagnosed. There are many different types of medication for different conditions. This needs to be carefully monitored.
Oftentimes, people who take medication in order to treat their heart failure also begin eating low sodium diet meals. Sodium is an exacerbating factor when it comes to heart failure. Although a high sodium diet may not cause heart failure by itself, a low sodium diet is a heart failure diet that can help enhance the positive effects of your medication.
3. Heart Valve Repair or Replacement
Sometimes, the real issue behind heart failure is not the heart on a more general level, but a valve that can be repaired or replaced. In this sense, the patient doesn’t need an entire transplant. Rather, the faulty valve can be repaired.
But if a replacement is needed, there are more options available than those given to heart transplant patients. Heart transplant patients must wait for a call telling them that a heart is ready and right for them. But valves can be transplanted in another sense. In the past, cow and pig valves have been used, transplanted into human patients without issue. Mechanical valves are also available and can be quite reliable for the long term.
A VAD, or a ventricular assist device, exists in order to help the heart pump blood. One of the early warning signs of heart failure is poor blood circulation, causing paleness and extreme fatigue.
These devices are implanted in the lower part of the heart. They essentially help pump the blood throughout the body, which in turn can allow a patient an extended life until a more viable option like a transplant becomes available.
Heart failure is a scary and even devastating diagnosis. But you don’t have to take it lying down. Explore your treatments and ask your doctor what is right for you.