Strength Training for Heart Failure Patients

Rather than avoiding being active, heart failure patients can and should exercise. Before starting an exercise program, congestive heart failure patients should consult their doctor to find out what types of exercise and what level of activity is considered safe for them.

Weight training for heart failure patients can be an effective way to improve heart health. The benefits of this type of exercise include the following:

  • Increased strength
  • Higher level of endurance
  • Lowers catecholamine (chemical messenger) levels in the body that can over-stimulate the heart (and possibly cause harm to a person in heart failure)
  • Increases bone density
  • Increases nitric oxide production in the body, which helps to relax arteries

A heart failure patient who is performing weight training as a fitness activity may find that doing so helps to reduce his or her heart failure symptoms when performing daily living activities.

Muscle Loss in Heart Failure Patients

A person in heart failure may have already experienced some muscle loss. The individual’s health condition means lower blood flow to the muscles and organs in the body. As a result, performing any kind of activity is challenging.

More than two-thirds of people with congestive heart failure have muscle atrophy, according to one study. This condition causes loss of muscle tissue, resulting in weakness.

Muscle atrophy also leads to poor posture and effects the way a person walks. Balance can be thrown off, which increases the risk of a slip and fall injury. Recovering from an injury is slower than normal, since the muscle fibers themselves have changed due to this condition.

Advantages of Strength Training for Heart Failure Patients

Aerobic exercise for people in heart failure helps to strengthen the heart muscle, but it doesn’t help them to develop muscle strength in their arms, shoulders or chest. Strength training keeps muscles healthy and helps the participant build lean muscle.

Heart failure patients produce a lower level of an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase. This is the substance that releases nitric oxide from the cells found in the lining of the blood vessels. Nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels, which helps to ease the symptoms of heart failure.

Strength training increases the nitric oxide synthase levels in the body, and provides some symptom relief by increasing the level of pressure on the tissue lining the blood vessels and the heart (the endothelium). The change in the pressure means more nitric oxide will be released and the blood vessels will start to relax, allowing blood to move though more easily. Lifting weights regularly means the individual in heart failure will feel experience less shortness of breath and be less tired when performing physical activities.

Heart Failure Patients Benefit from Exercise

Heart failure is not the same thing as someone’s heart stopping. This term refers to a condition where the heart has been damaged due to a heart attack or other disorder and is not pumping blood at full capacity. The organs and tissues in the body don’t get the same level of nutrients as they would if the heart was pumping properly.

The lower-than-normal pumping action can also lead to fluid building up in the patient’s lungs, as well as the extremities. Swelling of the feet and hands are symptoms of heart failure. Unexplained shortness of breath or a sudden weight gain (more than 3 lb. in a couple of days or 5 lb. in a week) also warrant getting checked out by a doctor. If the symptoms are severe, go to the closest Emergency Room or call the local emergency number for assistance.

Medical Treatment for Heart Failure

Once heart failure has been diagnosed, the doctor will discuss treatment options. Medications to help improve the heart’s pumping function may be prescribed, along with diuretics to deal with the fluid buildup that accompanies this condition.

In some cases, a special pacemaker may be used to help the right and left chambers of the heart pump more efficiently. For patients with severe heart failure, a heart transplant may be necessary.

Exercise and Lifestyle Changes for Heart Failure Patients

Patients who have been diagnosed with heart failure can benefit from taking good care of their health. Eating a healthy diet that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats is part of an overall lifestyle improvement.

Once heart failure has been diagnosed, the patient needs to watch his or her fluid intake carefully and consume no more than six-eight glasses or 2 liters of fluids daily. This calculation includes water, juice, milk, coffee and tea. Water should account for at least half of the daily fluid intake.

Exercise helps heart failure patients by strengthening the heart muscle, which helps to improve blood flow. Once the doctor gives the all-clear to exercise, it’s important to start slowly. Going for a walk is a good example of cardiovascular exercise that can be performed by a person at any level of fitness. The level of activity can be increased over time, and the patient will start to see the benefits of an active lifestyle relatively quickly.

Being active is a great way to deal with stress and helps to promote a positive outlook. For a person who has been diagnosed with heart failure, getting physical and making other lifestyle changes can help them feel more in control of the situation.

Risk of Heart Attack Increases in Sleep Apnea Sufferers

People who suffer from sleep apnea are at a higher risk for heart disease, according to the results of a study released by the American Heart Association. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where the individual experiences an interruption in his or her breathing during sleep.

This condition affects approximately 24 percent of men and nine percent of women. Snoring is one symptom, but people who have sleep apnea may also experience drowsiness during the day, a lack of quality sleep and a choking or gasping sensation when they wake up. Headaches in the morning may also be a sign of sleep apnea.

The study followed a total of 4,422 participants (1,927 men and 2,495 women) over a 8 1/2 year period. When the study started, all of them were screened and had healthy hearts.

heart failure imageThe male study subjects who had sleep apnea had a 58 percent higher risk of developing heart failure Their risk of having heart attack was 68 percent higher than for men who didn’t have the sleep issue. The female participants who had sleep apnea were not at a higher risk for coronary events, though.

When sleep apnea has been diagnosed, a patient may be advised to try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. It introduces pressurized air into the individual’s airway on a constant basis through a face mask that is worn during sleep. While this option is an effective way to deal with sleep apnea, it is not very comfortable.

Surgical treatment is a more expensive option for sleep apnea patients, but it can very effective in dealing with this health issue. A Maxillomandibular Advancement is performed to move the top and bottom jaw forward and help keep airways open during sleep.

About Implantable Defibrillators

An implantable cardiac defibrillator is (ICD) is about the same size as a pager. It is worn internally to continuously monitor the heart. Like a pacemaker, the ICD can send a signal to a heart that is not beating quickly enough. It can also administer an electric shock to correct a situation where the heart is beating too rapidly.

How an Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator Works

The ICD is positioned in the chest, near the collarbone. Wires connect the device to the heart. The ICD provides continuous monitoring of the heart, and takes steps to correct any abnormalities in the heart rate or rhythm.

Who Needs a ICD?

A person who has or is experiencing irregular heartbeats may be a good candidate for a ICD. Another case where the doctor may recommend a ICD is where the patient has had a heart attack that has damaged the heart’s electrical system. Some patients with congenital heart defects or in heart failure may be outfitted with a ICD as well.

After the ICD is in Place

A patient with a ICD in place will need to have regular follow-up care from his or her primary care physician. Any other doctors or dentists involved in that person’s care should be informed about the ICD.

A person with a ICD implant should carry an ID card indicating this fact. If they require care at a hospital, medical personnel need to be informed before treatment begins.

Having a ICD in place means the individual should stay away from strong magnets. If traveling by air, the person should advise security personnel about the device and request that a hand-held metal detector not be used to screen for hidden devices.

Adolescent Heart Failure Has Multiple Causes

Most people think of childhood heart failure as something that affects older people, but the young – adolescents – can be diagnosed this condition as well. In this case, “heart failure” refers to a heart that is working but not functioning as efficiently as it should. When this condition is diagnosed in adults, it is usually caused by the following:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart valve problem
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking

Heart failure has been diagnosed in newborn babies, children and teens. When younger people are affected by this condition, it is caused by two factors: pump failure or overcirculation failure.

Pump Failure

Pump failure occurs when the heart muscle becomes damaged and no longer works properly. A virus may be responsible for the damage or a congenital heart defect may be to blame.

Older children or teens with pump failure may complain of getting tired easily. If the child is being treated for a serious medical condition, such as leukemia or other forms of cancer, the medications used may damage the heart. In some cases, the damage to the heart is due to a congenital heart defect or an injury to the chest region. Young people who have been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy may also have cardiac issues.

Overcirculation Failure

Overcirculation failure is a condition that occurs when the blood becomes mixed inside the heart, and occurs as the result of a congenital heart defect. Approximately one percent of babies are born with this type of structural problem, which may be a hole between the chambers on the left and right sides of the heart. A valve that doesn’t close properly may cause blood to leak back into the upper chamber of the heart.

In some rare instances, a strep infection can damage the heart by causing the valves to leak. Anemia can also lead to heart failure by interfering with the normal blood flow to the body.

Treatment for Adolescent Heart Failure

The treatment for adolescent heart disease depends on the reason for the heart failure. If a congenital heart defect is the cause, then the doctor will probably recommend surgery. Medications to lower blood pressure and give the heart a chance to start pumping more normally may be prescribed as well. A pacemaker may be put in place to keep the heart beating properly. Surgery is needed to put the battery-operated device in place.

Heart Failure Defined

Heart failure is a chronic health condition. It occurs when the heart can’t pump enough oxygenated blood throughout the body to keep its cells nourished appropriately. To try to keep the blood flowing properly, the heart may become enlarged so that it can pump more blood. The heart may also start beating faster to keep blood flowing where it’s needed.

The signs of heart failure indicate that these measures are no longer working. Over time, the heart can’t keep up and the condition worsens.

Signs of Heart Failure

If you have any of the following symptoms, do see your doctor to determine the cause. They may be caused by other conditions, but you need to be properly diagnosed to ensure that your health is monitored appropriately.

  • Buildup of fluid in the body’s tissues
  • Confusion
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath

FDA Investigating Link Between Heart Attack, Asthma Medication

The asthma drug Xolair has been linked to heart failure, blood clots, stroke, heart enlargement and cardiac arrhythmias. The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it will be assessing the preliminary results to determine whether “further regulatory actions are necessary to protect patients.”

The medication has been approved for use by children over the age of 12 and adults who have asthma that is complicated by severe allergies. The issue of a possible connection between the drug and heart ailments came to light as the result of a trial involving 5,000 people taking Xolair and 2,500 participants who were not using the drug.

In 2007, the manufacturer or Xolair, Genentech, was ordered to include a “black box warning” on the packaging to advise patients that the drug may cause potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions. Genetech made $517 million on the sale of Xolair in 2008.

What is Myocarditis?

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle itself. The most common cause of this condition is a virus, but it may also be caused by systemic lupus. Pregnant women are also at risk for developing myocarditis. The condition may develop at the same time as, or right after, a throat or chest infection. Some kinds of viruses that have been linked to myocarditis are:

  • Epstein-Barr
  • Influenza
  • Mumps
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Polio
  • Varicella (Chicken Pox)
  • Yellow Fever

The viruses responsible for Hepatitis A and C can also cause myocarditis. After the person recovers from the virus, the inflammation to the heart may not settle down, and this inflammation can have long-term health consequences.

Symptoms of Myocarditis

If the inflammation is mild, the person may not have any symptoms of the disease at all. Some patients complain of chest pain. In more serious cases, the heart muscle becomes weakened as a result of the inflammation, which results in heart failure. At that point, the patient will have shortness of breath and report feeling very tired. A doctor may use an EKG to diagnose myocarditis, and blood tests will indicate the presence of elevated levels of heart muscle enzymes.

Treatment of Myocarditis

Myocarditis is treated by taking measures to prevent the condition from advancing to the stage where heart failure occurs. The patient will be advised to limit salt intake and may be given water pills. ACE inhibitors (to lower blood pressure) or beta blockers may be prescribed as well.

Over the long term, it’s difficult to predict how well a person with myocarditis will do. The condition may clear up on its own, which would be the best-case scenario. For other people, the condition advances into chronic heart failure. Being diagnosed with myocarditis means that you are at risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms. In severe cases, you would need to be outfitted with an implantable defibrillator.

Daytime Fatigue May Indicate Heart Disease

If you find it hard to stay awake during the day, you may want to schedule an appointment to see your doctor. A French study of elderly people has found that otherwise healthy older people who were sleepy during the day had a 49 percent better chance of dying from cardiovascular problems, including heart failure and myocardial infarction.

Researchers have not yet determined whether feeling tired during the day is a symptom of heart disease or whether having heart disease makes people feel sleepy. Feeling tired during the day can be caused by a number of health problems, and it’s worth getting checked out by a doctor anyway.

Heart Transplant Basics

In the United States, approximately 2,300 heart transplants are successfully performed each year. Another 800 people died while on the waiting list. The surgery takes several hours and is one of the most common transplant surgeries performed in North America.

A donor heart is obtained from a person who is brain dead and on a respirator. After the donor heart is harvested, it is kept in a special solution to preserve it until it can be given to the patient who is waiting for it.

During surgery, the patient is given a general anesthetic. The surgeon must first cut through the breast bone to get access to his or her health. A heart-lung bypass machine is used to keep the blood full of oxygen and circulating. The patient’s heart is removed and replaced by the donor heart. After the new heart has been stitched into place, the heart-lung bypass machine is shut off and blood starts to pump through the new heart.

A heart transplant may be performed in patients who have heart failure. This condition may be caused by coronary artery disease, a disease affecting the heart muscle, or congenital heart disease. The surgery has some risks associated with it, including infection and bleeding.

After the surgery, the patient will need to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives. Taking the medication exposes the patient to an increased risk of infection. For this reason, he or she must be on the lookout for signs of poor health and seek medical attention promptly.

Signing an organ donor card will help to increase the number of hearts available for transplant. If you decide to do so, be sure to share your decision with your family. Signing the card doesn’t mean that you will receive a lower standard of care if you are admitted to hospital, and there are very specific rules about when organs may be harvested for transplant purposes.