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Heart Failure Clinic

Heart Failure (HF) and Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) are both serious illnesses and yet many people are not aware that they may be afflicted. When left unmanaged, HF and CHF can be debilitating and impact the quality and longevity of one's life. Early recognition and diagnosis, along with a patient's understanding of their condition is the recommended approach to managing heart failure.

Heart Failure and Congestive Heart Failure are quickly becoming two of the most pressing health problems facing our communities. At the McLaren Bay Region Heart Failure Clinic, our team of highly experienced physicians, Advance Practice Nurses, (APN's) and other medical professionals are dedicated to working with individual patients throughout their life's journey by helping them understand and manage the symptoms of their type of heart failure diagnosis. Our healthcare professionals understand the associated anxieties patients experience when faced with the diagnosis of heart disease.

Our purpose is to educate patients and their families about this condition, the purpose of medications, the impact of certain diets and foods and the importance of monitored physical activity. Our primary goal is to improve the patient's condition and avoid repeated hospitalization

Heart Failure Clinic at McLaren Bay Region

The Playbook for Congestive Heart Failure:
Medications, Diet, Mild Exercise, CRT Therapy

Eric Sweterlitsch, M.D., an interventional cardiologist, has the toughness, the wit, and the will to win against congestive heart failure (CHF). A significant part of his practice is devoted to treating CHF patients. His "playbook" for each patient is different, yet Dr. Sweterlitsch and his patients work toward a common goal: Winning against a condition for which there is no real cure.

heart failure care
"The heart muscle in these patients," says Dr. Sweterlitsch, "is so weak it struggles to pump enough blood to meet the body's demands for oxygen-rich blood. It's an effort for many patients to move across the room. Fluid can back up behind the heart muscle, and they grasp at breath. If the body retains fluid, the heart has to work that much harder, and fluid begins to build up in the abdomen and other body tissues.

CHF usually begins over time. Heart failure can be traced to sustained heart disease or a heart infection that just sluggishly primes the systolic pump to contract and force an inadequate amount of blood to the body's organs. It can also be traced to longstanding or untreated high blood pressure, damaged heart valves, or an enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy).

"Symptoms depend on which side of the heart is affected," said Dr. Sweterlitsch. "Left-side CHF brings fatigue and shortness of breath -- even with mild exertion. There can also be fluid build-up in the lungs. On the right side, the amount of blood returning to the heart is less. So, there is swelling in the extremities, the abdomen, and other tissues because they're retaining so much fluid."

For CHF patients, the biggest loss is quality of life. If they don't work with their physician to attack CHF, they lose the ability for any reasonable activity, even around the house.

"I can usually diagnose CHF with a physical exam and the patient's reported symptoms," reports Dr. Sweterlitsch. "I may want to order tests, like an electrocardiogram, to visually see the heart's activity. CHF, though, is a rival you want to defeat quickly and as early as possible. I lay out the game plan, and tell patients if they follow this, they will likely live longer, avoid repeated hospital stays, and be part of daily activities that give life meaning."

"I'm straightforward with patients and tell them what they have to do," says Eric Sweterlitsch, MD, Cardiologist.

  • "Stop smoking, if that's still an issue. Avoid alcohol.
  • Take blood pressure medications as prescribed and have your blood pressure monitored weekly.
  • Eat a low-fat diet. Don't add salt at the table, and don't cook with salt. Avoid pre-packaged foods high in sodium.
  • Limit your fluid intake to no more than the amount recommended by your physician.
  • If you gain more than three pounds in one week, it's a good bet you're retaining fluid and should make a doctor's appointment.
  • I may put them on one or more different medications, depending on their heart function -- if I want their heart to pump more efficiently, I may prescribe digitalis to slow their high rate.
  • Vasodilators (ACE inhibitors) may be used to open up the blood vessels and get blood pressure under control. The heart doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood through the body.
  • Beta-blockers block adrenaline production, reduce demand on the heart, and prevent irregular heartbeats.
  • If fluid retention is an issue, I may prescribe a diuretic to stimulate the kidneys to move sodium and water from the body. Frequent urination can remove potassium from the body, so I may add a potassium supplement."

Malfunctioning heart valves can be repaired. If the heart is not beating and contracting in harmony, a cardiac resynchronization device can be implanted to coordinate the action of the right and left ventricles.

"It's true there is no cure for congestive heart failure, cautions Dr. Sweterlitsch. "However, people can live with chronic diseases successfully, but it requires discipline for the game plan to work. The late coach Paul "Bear" Bryant said:--¿Don't give up at half time. Concentrate on winning the second half.' It's fitting advice for all congestive heart failure patients."

Heart Failure Clinic Videos

Understanding Heart Failure

According to the American Heart Association, heart failure affects nearly six million Americans. Mistakenly, many people believe that heart failure means that the heart has stopped or is about to stop"beating". Heart failure is a progressive condition which occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump enough blood to the body's organs and tissues. With too little blood being delivered, these tissues and body organs do not receive enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly over a period of time.

The most common causes of heart failure include:

  • Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
  • Narrowing of the heart's arteries (coronary artery disease)

Other common contributors which may lead to heart failure include heart valve disease, viral infections, alcohol/drug abuse, and severe lung disease.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Heart Failure symptoms can vary widely from person to person depending on varying conditions and medical factors. The onset of heart failure may go unnoticed for many, but as the disease progresses symptoms described are likely to become more severe and include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Tiredness, fatigue
  • Lack of appetite, nausea
  • Swelling of legs and abdomen
  • Weight gain

About Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a type of heart failure which differs in symptoms.

As blood flows out of the heart slows down, the blood that returns to the heart through the veins is backed up, thus causing congestion in the tissues of the body. Usually, this swelling happens in the limbs of the body but can occur elsewhere in the body as well.

On occasion, fluid can build up in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe or causing general shortness of breath, primarily when lying down. This is referred to as pulmonary edema, and if left untreated, can lead to potentially fatal respiratory distress.

Another issue related to congestive heart failure is the effect on the ability of the kidneys to dispose of excess sodium and water from the body.