Cardiologist debunks five heart failure myths

As a cardiologist specializing in heart failure, I’ve helped hundreds of patients and their families focus on the facts about this serious medical condition. In the age of algorithms and filter bubbles, it is easy to fall victim to misinformation and let panic or hopelessness set in. Patients and their loved ones need accurate information to achieve their best quality of life. So in that spirit, I’d like to debunk five heart failure myths I’ve seen floating around.

• Myth No. 1: There is a 50/50 chance that a patient will die within a year or two of heart failure diagnosis

This is one of the more common misperceptions. While the severity of the patient’s heart failure is an important consideration, in general, for patients who take medications as prescribed and are followed carefully by their cardiologist, the survival rate for that timeframe is near 100 percent.

• Myth No. 2: Heart failure patients can ease off medication as they feel better.

As a cardiologist, it’s always great to hear that my patients are feeling better and finding more enjoyment in their daily life. That’s exactly what the medications I prescribe have been proven to do. However, heart failure is a chronic condition and patients must stick to their medication regimen so that they can continue to feel great.

• Myth No. 3: Heart failure diagnosis means that you’re going to need surgery or a heart transplant

Cardiologists don’t want to perform a procedure or surgery unless it’s absolutely necessary, which is why I always begin with medication therapy. Many heart failure patients do very well without open-heart surgery or transplantation.

Beyond medication therapy, other less invasive options include special sensors such as the CardioMEMs™ to monitor your heart from the comfort of your home. If greater intervention is still needed, your medical team might recommend a left ventricular assist device that can help support your heart more effectively.

• Myth No. 4: LVADs are only for younger patients

While the focus for this innovative treatment is for patients 70 or younger, there is no ageism with the LVAD. Under the right circumstances — including a willingness to take medications as prescribed and with the benefit of a strong support system — we have seen good results with the LVAD in people in their early- to mid-80s.

• Myth No. 5: Heart failure patients must adjust to their “new normal” and give up on being active

In my practice, I have observed that heart failure patients who adhere to their medication regimen and follow their medical team’s recommendations tend to see an improvement in their symptoms and feel well enough to increase their activity level. Patients should remember that staying physically active could greatly improve their quality of life.

Managing heart failure is not just a one-player game. An effective support system of family and friends is very important to help you succeed and feel better over time. Caring for your mental health is also very important. Ask your doctor if a mental health therapist might be a good addition to your health team.

Finally, make sure that you are seeing your doctors and receiving routine screenings regularly under the direction of your primary care doctor, your cardiologist and any other members of your team. This ongoing health maintenance will help you get more out of life.

— Dr. Ashish Haryani is a

cardiologist with Amita Health

who specializes in heart failure.