If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please dial 000 immediately.
image
Heart Failure Recovery
Cardiac Services Infoline

1300 783 192

Email Us

Cardiac Services

Heart Failure Recovery

When your heart has stopped working properly and is unable to pump blood efficiently around your body, this is known as heart failure. Common causes of heart failure include heart valve disease, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, and high blood pressure. It’s important to find out what has been causing the problem, and to prescribe the best treatment pathway to suit your needs. As the cause will be different for every patient, so will the recovery. Much of it will depend upon your age, health, and wellbeing as well as your own commitment to the recovery process. Taking an active role is crucial to achieving the best possible outcome and our specialist rehabilitation team are here to support you at every step as you regain strength and return to health. Please ask about our dedicated cardiac rehabilitation program that you can access through your hospital.

Diagnosing your heart failure

Without treatment, heart failure will only worsen so it’s important to understand the cause of the problem as soon as possible. Your doctor will talk to you about your medical history and perform a thorough physical examination. There are several tests that can help confirm heart failure:   

Your treatment and recovery program after heart failure

Although there is no definitive cure for heart failure, there are many treatment pathways that can improve your heart health and control the symptoms for many years. The exact treatment pathway will depend upon the diagnosis, and your doctor will talk to you about any individualised recommendations. The aim of the treatment plan is to treat the cause of heart failure, prevent it from worsening, improve your quality of life and help you recognise any symptoms.


Lifestyle changes

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a crucial aspect of making a good recovery from heart failure. Patients are typically advised to:

  • Follow a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds
  • Eat good fats like avocado, olive oil and fish
  • Reduce salt intake
  • Avoid sugary foods
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Avoid smoking

Medication

There are many medicines available to help you heart work more easily, and to help you live longer. These may include medicines to help your heart pump more slowly (beta-blockers), medicines to lower your blood pressure or diuretics to help reduce fluid build-up and swelling. Your doctor will talk to you about which medications are appropriate for your condition.


Surgery

In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair your heart, or to implant a device that will help your heart work better. This may include implantable defibrillator (ICD) surgery to regulate your heart rhythm, angioplasty and stenting to widen narrowed arteries, heart valve repair or replacement, and artery bypass surgery to help the blood move around the body by avoiding damaged arteries. Your doctor will talk to you about the best approach for your condition.


Recovering from heart failure

The key to a successful recovery is making the appropriate changes that will help the long-term health of your heart. Taking steps to protect your heart will prevent any further deterioration and reduce the risk of a cardiac event. This means tuning in to your physical symptoms and monitoring your own health. It is very common to experience anxiety and stress after heart failure. Seeking help and adopting tools and strategies that promote positivity are all helpful ways to support your general health. Your doctor may recommend that you attend a cardiac rehabilitation program to help with your general recovery. Here you will benefit from a team of trained healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists, and social workers that will all guide you through the recovery period. This dedicated team will help evaluate your personal needs, including any emotional support you may require, as well giving you the tools and strategies that aim to get you back to a healthy and active lifestyle. The guidance includes:

  • Any risk factors – such as smoking, diet and anxiety or depression
  • Medication requirements
  • What to expect at each stage of your recovery
  • How your family and friends can support your rehabilitation
  • How to meet your personal recovery goals
  • How to avoid the risk of another cardiac event

What to look out for at home

Heart failure symptoms can develop slowly over a long period, or more quickly in acute cases. They may include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lightheaded and fainting
  • Fluid retention and swelling
  • Persistent cough
  • Dizziness


Heart Failure Recovery FAQs

Physical activity improves your heart health but it’s important not to put too much strain on your heart too soon. Talk to your doctor about the most appropriate activity for your condition and follow any guidance around intensity and duration. Walking is always a good activity to begin with. You can start out slowly and build up the distance over time. Always talk to your doctor before trying anything new, and always stop immediately if you experience any pain or discomfort. 
The best way to prevent heart failure is to adopt a healthy lifestyle that reduces your risk of heart disease. This includes following a healthy diet, limiting caffeine and alcohol and avoiding smoking. You may have some risk factors outside of your control such as a family history, or another medical condition. Talk to your doctor about creating a treatment plan for your specific condition.
Surgery is not always the answer for heart failure, as there can be many reasons why your heart is not working effectively. It is only recommended as a last resort if the benefits are thought to override any risk of a procedure. Some common surgeries to treat heart failure are coronary bypass grafting (CABG), heart valve surgery and implantable defibrillator surgery (ICD).
If your heart condition is controlled and stable, there should not be any problem with air travel. If you have had a device fitted as part of your treatment plan, it may be detected by the security machines (although this will not affect how it functions). If you are considering travel after heart failure, talk to your doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing to ensure that you are medically safe to fly.

What's next?

If you have been experiencing heart-related symptoms, book an appointment with our cardiac services specialist today.

Have questions?

Unsure about your next steps? Get in touch today, we’re here to help.

Our specialists in Cardiac Services

View all specialists
image

Better and fairer care. Always.

In a rapidly transforming world, St Vincent's has created a refreshed vision and strategy to help shape Australia's health and aged care future.