The heart is vital to survival. Ensuring that adequate blood supply is being distributed to the body is absolutely critical for healthy living. The cardiac cycle is separated into two phases: Systole and Diastole. In a blood pressure reading, systole is the top number while diastole is the bottom. Systole is when the blood is being pumped out of the arteries to the body, and thus, is correlated with a higher-pressure reading than diastole. Diastole is associated with the heart filling with blood, getting ready for the next systolic contraction. Thus, symptoms of diastolic heart failure contribute to less blood being pumped to the body due to lack of adequate filling. The causes of chronic diastolic heart failure include hypertension, coronary artery disease and poor lifestyle habits. Commonly, it is the left ventricle impairment that is the directly responsible for the symptoms of diastolic heart failure. The symptoms of diastolic heart failure can have a drastic impact on life’s daily activities. They can include chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. Thus, accurate diagnosis of diastolic heart failure early is imperative in fighting it.
Causes of Diastolic Heart Failure
There are numerous causes of diastolic heart failure. They are all associated with the ventricles losing their ability to be flexible and accommodate large quantities of blood. This is also due to ventricles stiffening. What causes diastolic heart failure is hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, heart attack, aortic stenosis and systolic heart failure.
High blood pressure is arguably the most common cause of diastolic heart failure and other heart related diseases. High blood pressure is caused by the heart having to work harder to pump the same amount of blood to the body. This promotes stiffening of the ventricles, specifically the left, and decreases the volume of blood that can enter the heart. Prolonged hypertension directly contributes to chronic diastolic heart failure.
Diabetes has been rising in industrialized nations. This has been largely in part due to high sugar diets and consumption. Thus, diabetes has been rising as a cause of diastolic heart failure. Levels of high blood sugar have the potential to damage nerves and vessels in the body. This leads to the heart pumping harder to achieve blood flow through the damaged vessels and thus, the potential for diastolic heart failure increases.
Heart attacks are dangerous and often, result in death. Survival from a heart attack is not without repercussions albeit. During a heart attack, the heart is starved of oxygen and damaging scar tissue develops. This contributes to the stiffening of the ventricles and decreased blood volume capacity.
Blood from the heart is pumped out of the body from the left ventricle, through the aortic valve and out of the aorta. When the aortic valve begins to become inefficient, the left ventricle has to work harder to pump blood out to the body. This essentially creates thickening of the walls of the heart and again, a decreased capacity for blood in the heart promoting diastolic heart failure.
Systolic Heart Failure
Systolic heart failure is directly related to diastolic heart failure. If the heart during systole is not pumping all of the blood in the ventricles out to the body, blood begins to pool and stretch on the walls of the heart. This causes the heart to lose its flexibility in the long term and promotes chronic diastolic heart failure in the future. Patients with systolic heart failure should be monitored as it is be a cause of diastolic heart failure in the future.
Symptoms of Diastolic Heart Failure
The symptoms of diastolic heart failure are almost identical to many other forms of heart disease. Thus, differential diagnosis for diastolic heart failure is difficult. There are some telling signs of diastolic heart failure that should be immediately told to a licensed health professional if present. The symptoms of diastolic heart failure include sudden shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of muscle mass, chest pain and hypertension.
Sudden Shortness of Breath
This is the best method for providing a physical diagnosis of diastolic heart failure. As with other diseases of the heart, shortness of breath is not usually acute, rather extended over a period of days or weeks. This symptom of diastolic heart failure is acute and can happen rapidly. Patients usually experience an overwhelming struggle to breath and this is due to the heart struggling to pump enough blood to the tissues of the body that are demanding oxygen.
Fatigue is a common symptom of any heart related disease. What causes diastolic heart failure is the hearts inability to hold the needed supply of blood that should be sent out to the body. Thus, if the heart is not able to produce oxygen to areas of the body that demand it, fatigue arises.
Loss of Muscle Mass
Loss of muscle mass is usually not noticed immediately during heart related diseases. It is noticed more in chronic diastolic heart failure patients. It is also not uncommon to experience muscle weakening to due a decreased blood supply to these muscles and the surrounding areas.
Chest pain is a staple symptom of any heart disease. The heart begins to become overworked and a sharp pain may arise in the chest area that signals this.
Hypertension is not only a cause of diastolic heart failure, but also a symptom. Patients usually exhibit high blood pressure due to the failure of adequate blood pumping by the heart. This directly contributes to the heart having to work harder to pump the same amount of blood to the body and thus, rising blood pressure. It is imperative that high blood pressure be monitored, as it is a telling sign of diastolic heart failure and other heart related problems.
It is vital to seek medical assistance immediately if you are or have been experiencing any of the above symptoms of heart disease.
Diagnosis of Diastolic Heart Failure
If your doctor deems it necessary, many tests and procedures can be used to help provide a diagnosis of diastolic heart failure. Since the cause of diastolic heart failure involves the heart becoming enlarged or non-elastic, various methods show the hearts shape and size. These procedures can include blood tests, chest x-rays, electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and cardiac catheterization.
Along with chest x-rays, blood tests are very common methods of helping to diagnosis heart related problems. Blood tests search for abnormal levels of proteins correlated with heart stresses and problems. These can help doctors accurately determine what the best approach for diastolic heart failure treatment.
Chest X-Rays are extremely common and non-invasive. They are relatively easy to do and thus, why they are very popular. One of the symptoms of diastolic heart failure is an enlarged heart. Chest X-Rays are very good at examining whether a patient has an enlarged heart and if other tests are needed to get a more accurate diagnosis of heart failure.
The heart runs via electrical signals that help determine heart rate and heartbeats per minute. Thus, electrocardiograms are vital in determining whether the heart is pumping irregularly due to heart related diseases. Also, electrocardiograms help determine if the heart muscles have thickened and whether rhythm is out of sync. It should also be noted that electrocardiograms are painless and very easy to perform.
Echocardiograms are a relatively new form of technology that has greatly advanced how we view heart health. They are also painless and non-invasive. It involves ultrasound as sound waves are bounced off the heart to examine the hearts size and how effectively it is pumping. Echocardiograms are vital as they help calculate a telling sign of diastolic heart failure. They allow for a mathematical calculation of an “ejection fraction” or “EF”. This ejection fraction determines how effectively your heart is pumping blood each cycle. Thus, with this fraction, technicians and doctors can compare ejection fractions to the standard to determine which form of heart disease is present.
Cardiac Catheterization is an invasive procedure. It involves the insertion of a catheter, which is a thin tube, into an artery or vein in the leg that leads to the heart. Once at the heart, doctors and surgeons can insert a dye inside of the tube to help elicit better images of the heart to get a better diagnosis of heart related problems. Chest X-Rays are often used to see the dye in the heart. These images can be used to determine where blockages are in the heart and whether vessels are damaged. It must be noted that patients may need to rest at the hospital after the procedure is completed.
Diastolic Heart Failure Treatment
Treatment is usually decided by what causes diastolic heart failure in the patient. There are numerous diastolic heart failure treatments, and your doctor is the best person to decide what treatment is best for you. Some treatments include lifestyle changes such as reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, managing hypertension, controlling coronary artery disease and cholesterol. The use of medications and surgery are also more demanding forms of treatment.
In a study by the Journal of American Family Physicians, it was shown that patients that quit smoking and limited alcohol consumption greatly reduced the symptoms of diastolic heart failure. This is because smoking as been shown to raise cholesterol levels in the blood and promote clotting and narrowing of the arteries of the heart. Alcohol has also been shown to promote the development of atherosclerosis and thus, ventricle enlargement.
Frequent exercising is also imperative in the treatment of heart disease. Before exercising, it is extremely important to ask your doctor what level of exercise you should be taken part in. This is so the heart is not shocked by acute exercising and is imperative in avoiding heart attacks. Although, exercising has been shown to greatly diminish heart related issues. It has been shown that even 30 minutes of day of cardiac intensive activities can drastically decrease the risk of heart disease.
Consuming a proper diet is also important for minimizing heart related problems. Avoiding foods high in cholesterol, trans/saturated fats, and sodium have been shown to be crucial in the fight of heart problems.
Managing hypertension is arguably the most important form of diastolic heart failure treatment. As shown previously, hypertension can contribute to the heart becoming overworked and enlarged. The heart, due to the added strain on it, begins to stiffen and decrease the capacity of blood volume that it can hold. This directly correlates with less oxygenated blood being deliver to vital organs and tissues. Consulting with your doctor is imperative for managing hypertension. Lifestyle changes may be all you need, but sometimes medications are also needed in conjunction with these changes. Medications that have been shown to decrease blood pressure and heart size are angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, aldosterone antagonists, and beta-blockers. All of these medications lower blood pressure and help limit the size of ventricles. Usually, this is done by dilating blood vessels to decrease pressure in the arteries.
High blood cholesterol can directly contribute to heart problems. This is because cholesterol build up can lead to the development of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is especially damaging, as it is the narrowing of blood vessels, essentially forcing the heart to work harder to pump the same amount of blood to the tissues of the body.
Left-Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)
Left-Ventricular Assist Devices are especially important in diastolic heart failure treatment. The cause of diastolic heart failure is the enlargement and stiffening of the left ventricle in particular. This device helps promote the efficient functioning of the left ventricle and thus, increase the amount of blood being supplied to the body to deter the symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath.
This is an absolute last resort for diastolic heart failure treatment. If the heart becomes unable to pump enough blood to the body, usually due to chronic diastolic heart failure, a new heart may be needed to survive. New hearts must be donated from a person with the same blood type as the patient to deter autoimmune reactions and potential complications.
It is imperative that you speak with your doctor to determine what is the best form of treatment for you.