Leading U-M Frankel CVC researchers and physicians are advancing knowledge, finding new treatments and applying new technologies. Each week one of them shared his or her expertise in a six-week Mini Med School community education program focused on cardiovascular topics.
1. A serious health concern
More than 5 million people in the United States suffer from heart failure. It is the most common cause of hospitalizations for those over the age of 65 in the U.S. and represents a huge cost burden for Americans. Heart failure is caused by the inability of the heart to pump blood efficiently to oxygenate various organs throughout the body.
The two major categories of heart failure are low ejection fraction and preserved ejection fraction. An ejection fraction is an important measurement of how well your heart is pumping and is used to help classify heart failure and guide treatment.
2. Device therapies for heart failure
In addition to medication, device therapies — including pacemakers, defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization therapy — are often effective.
An emerging treatment is a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) used for patients with heart failure who have a high risk of dying within a year. The LVAD heart pump is used as a bridge to a heart transplant as well as destination therapy intended to be a patient’s long-term therapy.
3. On the horizon
There are also new medications on the horizon that are demonstrating strong promise for heart failure patients. The PARADIGM-HF study showed that a new drug, LCZ696, improved survival in previously treated heart failure patients. The drug was found to reduce patients’ risk of death and hospitalization from heart failure, more so than standard treatments.
Gene therapy and Stem Cell therapy are also under study for patients with heart failure and reduced ejection fraction. Recent studies have reported encouraging findings after transplanting stem cells taken from patients’ own bone marrow into heart muscle following a heart attack. It is too early to say if this type of treatment should be recommended outside of research studies at this time.
4. Lifestyle plays a major role
Lifestyle modification is critically important in patients with heart failure. A healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of hospitalizations related to heart failure. Educating patients about healthy living is as important as many medications. A healthy lifestyle includes:
- Regular exercise
- Avoiding alcohol
- Reducing sodium (less than 2,000 milligrams per day)
- Reducing fluid intake
- Regular monitoring of weight and overall symptoms
5. Be aware of masked high blood pressure readings
Heart failure patients should monitor their blood pressure on a regular basis at home and should be aware that normal blood pressure readings in the doctor’s office may not be representative of what is going on at home. A patient’s blood pressure might be at an acceptable range in the doctor’s office, and then escalate at home due to stressors in the home.
Take the next step:
- View Dr. Todd Koelling’s Mini Med School takeaways on Hypertension.
- Read Dr. Eric Adelman’s Mini Med School takeaways on Stroke.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.