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Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure?

Every year, an estimated 30,000 Australians are diagnosed with chronic heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart muscle has become too weak to pump blood through the body as effectively as normal or when the heart is unable to relax and fill under normal pressure. This may cause blood to ‘dam up’ behind the heart and fluid to collect in the lungs and other body tissues (oedema), and also may result in inadequate delivery of blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to the body.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, swelling of the legs and ankles or belly, weight gain, tiredness, loss of appetite and a reduction in ability to exercise.

Causes of Heart Failure

There are many different causes of heart failure but the most common include coronary artery disease, previous heart attack, long-term high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiomyopathy [disease of the heart muscle].

Diagnosis

There are a number of tests that your doctor can do to diagnose chronic heart failure.

Echocardiogram 

This test uses ultrasound waves that come from a small hand piece placed on your chest wall. This allows your heart to be directly visualized as it beats and an accurate assessment can be made on its structure and function.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An ECG is a reading of your heart’s electrical impulses taken from electrical leads placed on your chest and limbs. It may show up past or recent injury to your heart muscle and also directly determines the rhythm of your heart.

Angiogram

This is a special X-ray that shows whether or not your coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. Under a local anaesthetic, a small tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in your arm or groin and guided into the heart. Dye is injected through the catheter into the coronary arteries and X-rays are taken. The X-rays give detailed information about the condition of these arteries.

Chest X-ray

This test will show if your heart is enlarged and if there is fluid in the lungs.

Treatment

There are many different types of medicines used to treat heart failure or chronic heart failure. They work in different ways to limit further injury, improve function and assist in recovery of the heart muscle.  It is important that you take all the medicines prescribed by your doctor as they have been proven to reduce symptoms and improve long term prognosis.

If you think your medicine is not working, is causing you problems or you have any questions, talk to your doctor. Do not stop taking your medicines without talking to your doctor first.

Along with seeing your doctor regularly and taking your medicines as prescribed, lifestyle choices are very important in helping you manage heart failure.

Lifestyle recommendations

Monitor and control your fluid balance

Establish a daily routine of weighing yourself so you know if fluid is building up in your body.

There are three ways that you can help to control your fluid balance:

Control your fluid intake.

Restrict your salt intake.

Take diuretic medicines as prescribed by your doctor.

Restrict your salt intake

Salt causes your body to retain fluid. Make sure you eat low salt foods and don’t add salt to your food at the table or during cooking.

Be smoke-free

Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and damages the walls of your arteries. Stopping smoking is one of the most important things that you can do to reduce your risk of further heart disease.

For more information about quitting smoking, talk to your doctor or call the Quitline on 13 QUIT

Limit your alcohol intake

Alcohol can damage your heart. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you should drink alcohol. Your doctor may ask you to stop or limit your drinking.

Don’t drink more than one to two standard drinks of alcohol a day, and have at lest 2 alcohol-free days per week. If your heart failure has been caused by alcohol, stop drinking altogether.

Chronic heart failure programs

You may be able to attend a special program to help you manage heart failure. These programs usually involve a number of health professionals, such as nurses, dietitians and exercise specialists.

 

STEPS TO PREVENT SPREAD OF COVID-19

Thank you to all our patients who have attended our practice so far during the Covid-19 pandemic began. Your understanding and cooperation with new procedures we have in place to protect us all and ensure we comply with government guidelines is very much appreciated.

When attending our rooms you will notice changes such as reduced seating in our waiting room, distancing markings on the floor, protective screens, increased signage on our doors and walls and staff using protective clothing and equipment. Whilst this may seem overwhelming to some, the purpose is for your safety and that of our staff. Please be assured though that our team remain dedicated to providing exceptional customer service and cardiac care.

It is important not to neglect your cardiac health during this crisis and we remain committed to providing all of our usual services.

If you have symptoms of fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, shortness of breath, muscle soreness, loss of sense of smell and taste- we advise you contact your GP or local Coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.

PLEASE DO NOT ATTEND OUR PRACTICE if you have any of the symptoms above or have recently tested Covid-19 positive or awaiting Covid-19 test result or been in contact with someone who has – please call our team on 9592 2177 to advise. We offer telehealth consulting so you can remain in direct contact with your cardiologist when you cannot attend.

Other measures we are taking include:

We include the following links for your reference:
https://campaigns.heartfoundation.org.au/covid-19/
https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus