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If There's A History Of Heart Failure In My Family, Does That Mean I'm At Greater Risk?

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Dr. Stephanie Moore recalls the risk factors that increase an individual's likelihood for heart failure and shares preventive tests and lifestyle changes. Dr. Moore is a physician at the Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center.

Dr. Moore:
Heart failure can be prevented if captured early. Early signs might be shortness of breath, swelling in your ankles or belly, early fatigue ability with usual activities that you once could do very easily.

Also, if you have a family history of heart failure, pay attention to it. It’s one of the strongest indicators that you also could develop congestive heart failure, and it’s completely preventable if we catch it early.

Coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, diabetes, family history all make me think, “Hmm, this patient could have congestive heart failure in their future,” and once I start thinking about that, then we start thinking about preventing it for you.

Heart failure is diagnosed in the physician’s office. You have to see your physician. When you speak with your physician, they do their physical exam, that’s when the ‘aha’ moment happens and they think, “This patient may have congestive heart failure”.

We do some really simple tests then – painless, simple tests in order to figure out if your heart muscle is weakened.

An echocardiogram, which is just an ultrasound of the heart, an x-ray, an EKG, which is a heart tracing, and some blood work – those are the first steps to diagnosing congestive heart failure and then, that can lead to proper treatment.

Once diagnosed, congestive heart failure has many, many treatment options. That’s why it’s important to be diagnosed early because the earlier we see you, the earlier we can start treating you and the earlier you are going to feel better.

We have medications that are guideline-approved - ace inhibitors, beta blockers, diuretics to help you breathe a little bit easier, and lifestyle changes that will greatly enhance your quality of life. The earlier we see you, the earlier we start your road to recovery.

If that’s not enough, we have very highly technical pacemakers that can help your heart pump better and they are easily implanted with just one day in the hospital and very, very easy to live with and take care of.

If that’s not enough, we can move on to advanced treatment options which would include any clinical studies that we have available, would include artificial heart technology and even cardiac transplantation.

Many patients have lived well over 20 years with a brand new heart, only if it’s needed, and usually our medications, pacemakers, preventive lifestyle management usually works for more than 90% of patients.

Mass General Heart Center offers comprehensive care for the heart failure patient – from cardiac surgeons to nutritionists, pharmacists, nurses, physicians that are all invested in your health with the latest technology. We work with your community doctor who you know and trust, as part of the team to help you and your family understand and treat your condition the best way possible. We simply want you to live well.

Dr. Stephanie A. Moore, M.D.:
She is an Assistant in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Moore has an active involvement in both the heart failure/ transplantation and ventricular support services at Mass General. She is a board member for Boston American Heart Association and is Co-Chair for the Circle of Red, a passionate group of women that support the fight against heart disease.

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I was told by my mom her brother died at the age of 18 he was swimming and died of heart failure.My Uncle was an athelete in school and all the girls had a crush on him.I started to check up my mom and dad health history, both my mom and dad has a case of heart problems.My dad has a pacemaker and my mom had irregular hearbeat.Myself I have bradycardia. I was sent to a heart specialist who told me when I get older I will probably need a pacemaker,after many tests, I had to wear a heart moniter for 24 hours. I was feeling fatigue,lightheaded, heart racing and trouble breathing. I also felt very dizzy like the room was spinning so fast and even going home for work dizzy spells I hung onto a tree for a few minutes I thought I was going to pass out. It was frighttening.

September 6, 2011 - 1:47pm
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