Heart Failure

Heart failure is also called congestive heart failure. With heart failure, the heart tries to pump more blood, but the muscle walls of the heart become weaker over time. When this happens, fluid collects in the lungs or other parts of the body. The fluid can cause congestion, making it difficult to breath. People with heart failure may also have swelling in the hands, legs, feet and abdomen. Heart failure affects about five million people in the United States and is the leading cause of death for hospital admissions for people age 65 and older.

These quality measures show some of the standards of care provided, if appropriate, to someone who has heart failure:
  • Assessment of left ventricular function
  • Complete discharge instructions
  • Advice to quit smoking

Assessment of left ventricular function

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Assessment of left ventricular function or the heart's ability to pump blood effectively, is the standard of care for heart failure patients. Left ventricular function assessment is the single most important diagnostic test for patients with heart failure.

Why is this important?

The proper treatment for heart failure depends on what area of your heart is affected. An important test is to check how your heart is pumping, called an "evaluation of the left ventricular systolic function." It can tell your healthcare provider whether the left side of your heart is pumping properly. Other ways to check on how your heart is pumping include:
  • Your medical history
  • A physical examination
  • Listening to your heart sounds

Discharge instructions

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Educating heart failure patients and their families is an important aspect of providing quality care. Discharge instructions for heart failure patients includes information about diet, activity level, medications, signs of worsening symptoms and follow up appointments with the patient's physician. Following the plan of care can help patients feel better, prevent heart failure from getting worse and help them live longer.

Why is this important?

Heart failure is a chronic condition. It results in symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness and fatigue. Before you leave the hospital, the staff at the hospital should provide you with information to help you manage the symptoms after you get home. The information should include your:
  • activity level (what you can and can't do)
  • diet (what you should, and shouldn't eat or drink)
  • medications
  • follow-up appointment
  • watching your daily weight
  • what to do if your symptoms get worse

Advice to quit smoking

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Smoking contributes to the development of heart disease and makes existing heart disease worse. Smoking causes illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, problems with pregnancy and lung disease.

Why is this important?

Smoking increases your risk for developing blood clots and heart disease, which can result in a heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Smoking causes your blood vessels to thicken. Fat and plaque then stick to the wall of your blood vessels, which makes it harder for blood to flow. Reduced blood flow to your heart may result in chest pain, high blood pressure and an increased heart rate. Smoking is linked to lung disease and cancer and can cause premature death. It is important for your health that you get information to help you quit smoking before you leave the hospital.

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