Take Heart: February is American Heart Month 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Estimates are that nearly 6.5 million Americans over the age of 20 have heart failure. The prevalence of heart failure is increasing due to the aging of the population and the increasing rates of obesity and other risk factors for heart disease. Heart failure is a serious and often debilitating condition, and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Despite advances in medical and surgical treatments, heart failure remains a major public health problem in the United States and around the world.

But you can take heart because with early diagnosis and treatment people can live happy and full lives. February is American Heart Month, making it the perfect time to learn how to avoid or manage this diagnosis. 

What Are Strategies to Manage Heart Failure? 

Treating and managing heart failure is about taking a multi-prong approach that addresses the current symptoms and the cause for the disease. Patients may make lifestyle changes, take medication, and work closely with their healthcare team. 

For many people, lifestyle contributes to the diagnosis of heart disease. Because of this, making lifestyle changes is crucial to manage the situation. 

  • Dietary Management: Making changes to your diet, such as reducing salt intake, eating a heart-healthy diet, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine can be an important step in managing heart failure. Monitoring and managing your weight, as excess weight can put additional strain on the heart.

  • Activity and Rest Managment: Other lifestyle changes may include engaging in regular physical activity to improve heart health. Getting enough sleep and managing sleep-related issues, such as sleep apnea, to ensure restful and rejuvenating sleep also helps to improve activity levels and overall health.

  • Stress Management: Practicing stress-management techniques, such as mindfulness, yoga, or therapy, can help to manage stress levels which can worsen heart failure symptoms. 

Regularly monitoring symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and fluid buildup, allow for timely medical intervention, and reporting any changes to a healthcare provider are important during any increase in regular physical activity. Regularly follow up with your healthcare provider to monitor your condition and receive any necessary treatment.

It's important to work with a healthcare team to develop a comprehensive management plan and make any necessary adjustments along the way to effectively manage heart failure. A doctor may prescribe medication to treat heart failure, managing symptoms, improving heart function, and preventing further damage to the heart. Medications may include ACE inhibitors to improve heart function and beta-blockers to slow down the heart rate. Using medical devices such as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or a cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) device can help the heart pump more effectively. When considering surgery, a healthcare team should offer specific treatment options to address the condition of the individual, potentially including left ventricular devices (LVAD), heart reconstruction, and heart transplantation.

It's important to work with your healthcare team to develop a comprehensive plan to manage your heart failure and to make any necessary adjustments along the way. Remember, the goal is to improve symptoms, prevent complications, and extend life.

Can You Recover or Heal From Heart Failure?

Heart failure is a chronic condition that means the heart is unable to pump blood effectively. There are four stages of heart failure: Stage A, B, C, and D. Those in Stage A are considered at risk of developing heart failure. This is the pre-stage of the disease. Stage D is the advanced and final stage of heart failure. 

Athough heart failure cannot be cured, with proper medical care and lifestyle changes, it can be managed and the progression of the disease can be slowed down. Some people with heart failure may experience improvement or stabilization of their condition, but it is not possible to reverse the damage to the heart.

It is important to work with a healthcare team to develop a comprehensive treatment plan and to make any necessary adjustments along the way to manage your heart failure effectively. It can also be important to work with a life care professional like MacKenzie Life Care Planning to determine long term costs for care and treatment of heart failure to prepare you for the financial realities of living with heart failure. 

How Much Is Medical Care for Patients With Heart Failure? 

Heart failure medical care costs total an estimated $30.7 billion for patients in the United States. This cost is expected to rise to $69.8 billion by the year 2030. The majority of these costs come from hospitalizations. For an individual patient in the United States, the annual cost of care averages $30,000. These costs can rise as disease progression occurs. 

The cost of medical care for patients with heart failure can vary widely depending on several factors, including the severity of their condition, the treatments they require, and the type of insurance they have. In general, the cost of medical care for heart failure can be substantial, and may include expenses for medications, hospitalizations, medical procedures, rehabilitation, and home health services. 

If you are concerned about the cost of medical care for heart failure, it's important to discuss your financial situation with your healthcare provider to determine the options available to you. They may be able to help you find ways to manage your expenses and access the care you need. For better insight into cost estimates, an expert like MacKenzie Life Care Planning can provide you with an unbiased evaluation. 

How Can Advanced Care Planning Improve Quality of Life for Heart Failure Patients?

Advance care planning (ACP) focuses on the patient’s quality of life. The conversation should include the patient, healthcare providers, and family. Care planning should address the patient’s values and preferences to ensure the plan includes what is important to the patient. The care plan should also document the patient's end-of-life care wishes, such as a living will do not resuscitate (DNR) order, or other advanced directive. This comprehensive and coordinated approach to patient care focuses on current and future health decisions. 

Once an advance care plan is in place, it can contribute to the improvement of the patient’s quality of life while lowering the occurrence of hospital admissions. The ACP also benefits the patient’s family by keeping them informed and involved, and encourages open and honest communication between patients, their families, and their healthcare providers. This helps provide peace of mind to patients and their families by giving them the assurance that their wishes will be respected and that they will receive the care they want at the end of their lives.

How Can You Avoid Heart Disease and Heart Failure?

You can take steps in your everyday life to avoid heart disease later in life. The sooner you make changes, the more you can lower your risk of heart failure later. It can feel overwhelming to make major changes, but even small changes have a significant impact. 

If you currently smoke or use tobacco, now is the time to stop. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, including heart failure. The effects of smoking on heart failure include increased risk for a heart attack or heart failure, reduced oxygen supply to the heart, increased blood pressure and blod clotting, damaged blood vessels and reduced physical activity. 

Start by incorporating 30-60 minutes of physical activity into your daily life, including cardio and weight training. If this is too much, start small with five minutes of walking and build up. Physical activity will help you maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts you at greater risk of heart failure. Men with a waist size greater than 40 inches and women with a waist size greater than 35 inches have increased risk of heart failure.  

As a part of embracing a healthy lifestyle, consider a heart healthy diet. This should be rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, lean meats, fish, and whole grains. Avoid excessive amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fat, and processed carbohydrates. Limit acohol consumption in moderation or not at all to reduce your risk of heart disease and heart failure. This does not mean you have to give up everything that you enjoy in your life. Instead, make small changes to your diet that replace less healthy choices with healthy ones. 

Finally, managing stress and getting regular health screenings is important for maintaining a healthy heart. Your doctor may perform tests to monitor cholesterol, blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Changes in these test results can signal a change in your condition. 

Remember, making small changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact on your heart health. If you have a family history of heart disease or heart failure, it's important to be proactive in managing your risk factors to prevent these conditions.

Develop Your Advanced Care Plan For Heart Failure 

The MacKenzie Life Care Planning team understands that managing heart failure requires a comprehensive approach involving more than just the patient. With experience in developing cost estimates, life care plans, and advance care plans, MacKenzie Life Care Planning offers a comprehensive, patient-centered approach for individuals with heart failure and other chronic conditions. By putting the patient's needs and preferences at the center of their life care plan, MacKenzie helps to ensure quality life through each stage of heart failure. 

Request a meeting with one of MacKenzie’s Life Care Planning’s experts to discuss possible future medical needs, cost analysis, and document review.