Hearing that you or a loved one has heart failure is hard to accept. However, this disease can be manageable to treat with the right steps. Although heart failure can be progressive and chronic, those who suffer from heart failure can make sure that they are able to slow the process down.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 6.2 million Americans have heart failure. Fortunately, with the help of medications, healthy lifestyle choices, and the support of family, living with heart failure can be manageable.

What Is It?

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable pump enough blood to the rest of the body.  This could because it is weak (unable squeeze strongly) or because it is stiff (unable to relax fully).

Warning Signs

Experiencing any of the signs and symptoms should be an alert for any person that may believe that they have heart failure. Anyone who may experience these symptoms should seek medical attention and get evaluated. The most common symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Buildup of excess fluid in body tissues
  • Tiredness, fatigue
  • Lack of appetite, nausea
  • Confusion, impaired thinking
  • Increased heart rate

Treatment Options

Treatment for heart failure depends on the cause of the problem.  This can include:

  • Opening blocked arteries in the heart
  • Stopping alcohol or tobacco use
  • Better control of diabetes and high blood pressure

One treatment option – that is recommended for all heart failure patients – includes making lifestyle changes. Eating healthier foods, exercising, and managing stress can all be lifestyle changes that work to slow the progression of heart failure. Another strong recommendation is taking medications prescribed by your physician.

When to Take Action

Early signs of heart failure may be mild at first, however, if not treated may get worse. The onset of heart failure can be sudden or slow.  Recognizing the signs/symptoms of heart failure is important in determining when you need to see your physician and how to tailor treatment.


Of course, the primary goal of education/awareness is to prevent the development of heart failure.  Leading a healthy lifestyle, seeing your primary care physician regularly, staying active and avoiding cigarettes and excess alcohol can all lower the likelihood of developing heart problems. The sooner you start the better!

For more heart related information and stories like this, visit http://www.uoflhealth.org/redcouchtour.

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Article by:

Christina Dunbar Matos, D.O.

Dr. Christina Dunbar Matos is a graduate of West Virginia Osteopathic School of Medicine. She completed her general cardiology fellowship at Lehigh Valley Health Network and her advanced heart failure fellowship at UofL. She previously practiced advanced heart failure at Virginia Tech before returning to UofL in June 2020. Her practice is focused on the treatment of advanced heart failure; including medications, ventricular assist devices and heart transplant. She is married to Mike Matos and has four furbabies. She enjoys devoting her time to animal rights/rescue.

All posts by Christina Dunbar Matos, D.O.
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