Congestive heart failure program in West Palm Beach

The Advanced Heart Care Center and the Heart and Vascular Institute at JFK Medical Center focus on providing specialized care for patients with heart failure, including advanced heart failure management. Our experienced team of cardiologists and heart health specialists will work with your current physicians to create a customized care plan that improves your overall quality of life.

To learn more about our advanced care for heart failure, please call us our Consult-A-Nurse® team at (561) 548-4535.

Our heart specialists offer complete cardiac care. Whether you have developed heart failure after a heart attack or from heart disease, we are here to provide the continuum of care you need to manage your symptoms.

What is heart failure?

Unlike the term may suggest, heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped working. Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition that develops when the heart muscle weakens and is unable to pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. More than 600,000 Americans are living with heart failure, and it is a frequent cause for hospitalizations.

Heart failure worsens over time and is typically caused by persistent high blood pressure, a heart attack, heart and vascular diseases or congenital abnormalities. Left untreated, the lack of adequate blood flow causes the organs to progressively fail, resulting in numerous medical complications that have a negative effect on a person's quality of life.

Often, you will hear the terms "heart failure" and "congestive heart failure" (CHF) used interchangeably. While this is not inaccurate, CHF specifically refers to the point in which fluid is building up around the heart muscle, causing inefficiency in pumping.

Understanding blood flow in the heart

The heart is a very complex muscle, but it relies on blood flow for proper function. Below we have outlined the proper process that blood flow should follow in the heart.

Signs and symptoms of heart failure

Heart failure symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down or that worsens over time
  • Need to sleep upright
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles and legs
  • Weight gain from fluid buildup
  • Frequent urination, especially at night time
  • Abdominal pain

Causes of heart failure

There are a number of controllable and uncontrollable factors that can contribute to a heart failure diagnosis, including:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Problems related to the heart valves, often due to rheumatic heart disease (damage to the heart valves resulting from rheumatic fever), bacterial endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the heart), congenital abnormalities and/or calcium deposits from atherosclerosis (build up in the arteries that restricts blood flow)
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiomyopathy (condition that makes it hard for the heart to pump blood effectively throughout the body)
  • Certain medications
  • Heart arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat)
  • Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland)
  • Amyloidosis (buildup of proteins, called amyloid, in the heart)
  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency

Risk factors of heart failure

The following are common risk factors associated with heart failure.

  • Increased risk as you age
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Excess intake of salt or fatty foods
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Male
  • African American
  • Current smoker
  • Pregnancy
  • High fever
  • Infection
  • Chronic lung disease, like emphysema
  • Chemotherapy treatment

Preventing heart failure

The best way to prevent heart failure is to reduce your personal risk of coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and/or diabetes. You can take the following steps to reduce your risk:

  • Begin a safe exercise program with the advice of your doctor
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Lose weight, if needed
  • Eat a healthy diet—The DASH diet , in particular, may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart failure, particularly in women. The DASH diet is:
    • Rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods
    • Low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol
  • Eat whole grain breakfast cereal

Diagnosing heart failure

Heart failure diagnosis begins with a visit to one of our board-certified cardiologists who will perform a physical exam, which includes:

  • Listening to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope
  • Feeling the abdomen for tenderness and swelling of the liver
  • Checking your feet, ankles and legs for swelling

Following a physical exam, additional heart imaging and screening tests will be ordered to confirm a heart failure diagnosis and determine the extent of your conditions. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) — measures electrical currents in the heart
  • Echocardiogram — ultrasound to examine the size, shape, function and motion of the heart
  • Exercise stress test — measures heart activity during periods of increased stress, such as physical activity
  • Nuclear imaging — uses a radioactive tracer to highlight and examine areas lacking blood flow in the heart
  • Coronary angiography — a catheterization procedure to identify narrowing or blockages in the arteries

Take a heart health risk assessment

Heart failure therapies and treatment

At JFK Medical Center, we offer a range of treatment options for congestive heart failure, including:

  • Heart and vascular surgery, such as inserting a ventricular assist device (a mechanical pump to help the heart function)
  • Pulmonary artery pressure monitoring — a sensor to measure pressure and heart rate that is implanted in the pulmonary artery)
  • Ultrafiltration — method of salt and water removal
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) — therapy to restore an incorrect heart rhythm
  • Diuretic infusions—medication given intravenously to reduce liquid in the body
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medication management
  • Home inotropic infusion therapy — drug delivery from an intravenous line or infusion pump

Lifestyle changes

The following lifestyle changes can help treat the symptoms of heart failure and slow down its progression:

  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Eating a healthy diet that is low in fat and salt and high in fiber
  • Beginning an exercise program with guidance from your doctor
  • Weighing yourself every morning to detect if you are retaining fluid

Medication management

Your doctor will most likely prescribe a combination of medications, such as:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to widen blood vessels
  • Digoxin (also called digitalis) to help your heart pump
  • Beta-blockers to slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure
  • Diuretics to remove excess fluid in your body

You may also be given medications to:

  • Thin the blood
  • Help manage chest pain
  • Help manage cholesterol levels
  • Help control high blood pressure

Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) treatment

A left ventricular assist device is a mechanical device that circulates blood through the body when the heart is too weak to pump blood adequately on its own. It is designed to supplement the pumping function of the heart. It is surgically attached to the left ventricle and to the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to the entire body. An external, wearable system that includes a small controller and two batteries is attached by an external driveline. The wearable system is either worn under or on top of clothing.

The type of LVAD used at JFK Medical Center is a continuous flow, implantable pump.

Patients with advanced heart failure who have exhausted medical therapies may be candidates to receive an LVAD. This therapy is recommended by the American Association of Cardiology and the American Heart Association as a treatment option for advanced heart failure. Studies have shown that patients treated with an LVAD can live longer and enjoy an improved quality of life compared to medication management alone.

The LVAD is designed to restore blood flow throughout the body, enabling you to breathe more easily and have more energy. An LVAD can significantly reduce heart failure symptoms. You should be able to resume normal activities that you were unable to do prior to receiving the device.

There are three main reasons an LVAD may be used, including:

  • As a bridge to recovery — An LVAD can be used to support a patient that is experiencing heart failure that may reverse itself after temporary support, such as viral infections and postpartum heart disease.
  • As a bridge to transplant — An LVAD can be used to support a patient until a donor heart becomes available.
  • As destination therapy — An LVAD can be implanted permanently for long-term therapy in patients with severe heart failure who are not candidates for heart transplantation.

Additional resources

If you are looking for more information on heart failure, visit one of these trusted resources:

As seen on CBS12, Dr. Waqas Ghumman discusses different treatment options for heart failure.