Recently Dr. Mir Ali, M.D., F.A.C.C., spoke to members of Banner High Country Seniors about congestive heart failure. Ali, who owns and operates the Heart, Artery & Vein Institute in Payson and a similar service in Globe, explained the condition, what puts an individual at risk for it and various treatments available.
Congestive heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood through the heart to meet the body’s needs. While the word “failure” is in the name of the condition, it doesn’t mean the heart has stopped working; it means the heart works less efficiently than normal.
Ali said at first the heart tries to make up for its lack of efficiency by:
• Enlarging — The heart stretches to contract more strongly and keep up with the demand to pump more blood. Over time this causes the heart to become permanently enlarged.
• Developing more muscle mass – The increase in muscle mass occurs because the contracting cells of the heart get bigger, this lets the heart pump more strongly, at least initially.
• Pumping faster – This helps increase the heart’s output.
• The blood vessels narrow to keep blood pressure up, trying to make up for the heart’s loss of power.
These temporary measures mask the problem of heart failure, but they don’t solve it, Ali said. Heart failure continues and worsens until these compensating processes no longer work.
About 5.1 million people in the U.S. have congestive heart failure and in 2009 it was a contributing factor in one out of nine deaths. Each year the costs of care related to congestive heart failure is approximately $32 billion.
Symptoms of congestive heart failure include shortness of breath, cough, confusion, dizziness, ankle swelling, bluish skin and anxiety. Among the risk factors for developing congestive heart failure are: coronary heart disease; high blood pressure; diabetes; and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, consuming food high in fat, cholesterol and sodium, not enough physical activity and obesity.
Ali said treatments for congestive heart failure include medications, lifestyle changes, device therapies, surgery and EECP.
He went on to explain EECP in detail — EECP is an acronym for Enhanced External Counter Pulsation. It is a noninvasive, outpatient option for managing not only heart failure, but also angina. The mechanical process of EECP augments the body’s natural circulatory process.
With the process, pressure is created by inflating a series of cuffs — most resembling large blood pressure cuffs — directing blood back to the heart with each heart cycle. The process ultimately restores sufficient blood flow to parts of the heart lacking oxygen. The therapy generally requires a hour of treatment each day for five days at a time for a total of 35 sessions.
Ali said the benefits of EECP therapy are an increase in energy and exercise tolerance; an increase in alertness (brain function); the reduction or elimination of symptoms of chest pain; a reduction in shortness of breath; a reduction in fatigue; a reduction of heart palpitations. He said it also reduces leg pain; strengthens the heart muscle; increases perfusion — creating natural bypasses around narrowed arteries in the heart; increases flow to other organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver and brain. It can improve sexual function in men; reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease; reduce symptoms of dementia; reduce blood pressure; aid in the regression of atherosclerosis; improve ventricular function; release growth factors that promote cardiac remodeling; allow for a decrease in medication use.
To learn more, stop by the Heart, Artery & Vein Institute, 127 E. Main St., Suite A, Payson, or call 928-238-1388 or 928-402-8000.