Systolic Heart Failure

When the left side of the heart does not function properly, or does not pump out blood effectively, it is referred to as systolic heart failure. It is the most common cause of heart failure, where the chambers of the heart are also affected. It can be caused due to various other heart ailments. This article will talk about this condition in detail.

What Is Systolic Heart Failure?

Systolic heart failure happens when the heart is unable to pump blood effectively. There is less strength in the pumping action and the atrium and ventricles of the heart become thin, floppy and large. Because the pumping is inefficient, the blood goes back into the organs which lead to congested lungs and swelling in the body. It is called systolic because the main chambers affected are the ventricles, which cannot pump blood forcefully during systole. Due to this, the ejection fraction of the heart is low and is also referred to as reduced ejection fraction related heart failure.

What Causes Systolic Heart Failure?

Many conditions related to the heart can cause systolic heart failure. The details are given below:

  • ŸCoronary artery disease: It is caused when the arteries which supply blood to the heart muscles get blocked, causing heart attack. This ends up damaging and weakening the muscles of the heart and hence they are unable to pump well.
  • ŸHigh blood pressure: Due to the increased pressure in the arteries, the heart is required to pump harder. This causes the heart muscles to weaken over a period of time.
  • ŸArrhythmia: Arrhythmia means irregular heartbeat, which reduces the effectiveness of the pumping by the heart.
  • ŸCardiomyopathy: Due to the weakening of the heart muscles in this condition, in which the cause is unknown, the heart is unable to pump effectively.
  • ŸViral myocarditis: This is due to viral infection of the heart muscles, which results in the inflammation of the muscles, thus affecting the effectiveness of the heart’s pumping.
  • ŸAortic stenosis: Due to the narrowing of the aortic valve, there is increased strain on the heart to pump blood through the valve. This causes the muscles to weaken.
  • ŸMitral regurgitation: Due to improper functioning of the mitral valve, blood leaks from the left side. This causes the heart muscle to get stretched and weakened.

What Are the Symptoms of Systolic Heart Failure?

Some of the typical symptoms of systolic heart failure are:

  • ŸDyspnea or breathlessness
  • Wheezing or chronic coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations, rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea, loss of appetite
  • Fluid buildup, swelling or edema
  • Impaired thinking, memory loss or disorientation

How to Treat Systolic Heart Failure

1. Medication

Most of the patients benefit from taking medications like ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and getting vaccinated against diseases like influenza and pneumococcal.

Some patients might require diuretics, or ARBs (if ACE inhibitors are not tolerated), or digoxin. Anti-arrhythmic drugs can also be used for irregular heartbeat. Potassium and magnesium supplements are also prescribed.

2. Surgery

Systolic heart failure sometimes may require surgery and some of the options are CABG (Coronary artery bypass graft) and angioplasty. These are applied when the cause is blockage of coronary artery. A stent might be used to act as a permanent barrier which helps in keeping the plaque compressed. Sometimes, the plaque is removed during surgery. Surgery can be performed to insert pacemakers or artificial heart valves as well.

As the last choices, surgical intervention will include heart transplant, implantation of left ventricular assist devices and heart reconstruction.

3. Lifestyle Changes

What's more, there are some life habits changes that are helpful to affect the factors which contribute to heart failure. Some of these are:

  • ŸEating a healthy diet with low sodium and fats
  • ŸAvoid activities which put strain on the heart
  • ŸLimit intake of alcohol, caffeine and avoid smoking
  • ŸStart regular exercise and reduce stress as much as possible
  • ŸEnsure that you keep track of any symptoms related with heart failure
  • ŸWeight regularly so that any fluid retention can be easily identified
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