We’re Taking Red Steps to Rise above Heart Failure


The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center Advanced Heart Failure cardiologists take steps every day to prevent and treat heart failure. Today, we’re part of the “Red Steps Challenge” to #RiseAboveHF with the Heart Failure Society of America #HFSA.

Heart Failure by the Numbers

6 Million – number of people in the U.S. with heart failure

250,000 – number of people who die from heart failure each year

50 percent – likelihood a person will die after 5 years of diagnosis

What Is Heart Failure?

Contrary to what its name suggests, heart failure does not mean that the heart suddenly stops working. Instead, heart failure occurs as a result of weakened heart muscle. Injury to the heart such as damage caused by a heart attack, high blood pressure or abnormalities in a heart valve are all causes of muscle weakening. Each of these creates damage that causes the heart to work harder in order to continue the blood flow to the body. Unfortunately, heart failure often is not recognized until its later stages, where it is most commonly referred to as congestive heart failure.

Improving the Odds of Living Longer, Better

Today, let’s take steps to raise awareness about heart failure, how to detect it and help patients work with cardiologists to improve their odds of living a longer, better quality of life. The UA Sarver Heart Center advanced heart disease team provides a full spectrum of care for heart failure patients, including high-risk catheterization procedures for structural heart disease, mechanical circulatory assist devices to help the heart pump blood, the total artificial heart and heart transplants.

Know the risks for heart failure:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Prior heart attack
  • History of heart murmurs
  • Enlarged heart
  • Family history of an enlarged heart

 Know the Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing when laying down
  • Weight gain and swelling in the ankles and legs due to fluid retention
  • Fatigue and weakness

Symptoms may be subtle and go undetected. Sometimes they are mistaken for common signs of aging.

Work with Your Cardiologist:

Advanced heart disease cardiologists from the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center use the following to diagnosis the causes and severity of heart failure:

  • A thorough health history
  • Physical examination
  • Initial blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram (also called ECG)
  • Chest radiograph (also called “chest X-ray”)
  • Echocardiogram (also called “echo”)

 Treatments to Improve Quality of Life:

“Most patients begin with the basics,” said Nancy K. Sweitzer, MD, PhD, director of the UA Sarver Heart Center and chief of cardiology and professor of medicine at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, who is board certified in advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology. “The basics include healthy lifestyle changes, careful monitoring of symptoms and medications that are common to treat other forms of heart disease.”

Lifestyle Checklist for Patients:

Although heart failure is a chronic disease (it will never go away no matter how good a patient feels) it can be treated, and people with heart failure can live content lives for many years if they adhere to the following:

  • Take medications ordered by their doctor
  • Maintain doctor follow-up appointments
  • Monitor daily weights and report weight gains (3-5 pounds in a week)
  • Monitor symptoms and report
  • Follow a proper diet and amount of fluids
  • Maintain daily exercise
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoid tobacco use

What if the basics aren’t enough?

A number of procedures may be considered. These include implantable defibrillators to protect your heart from life-threatening arrhythmias, pacemakers to coordinate your right and left ventricles, bypass surgery, heart valve surgery, artificial heart or a heart transplant.

Care from a specialized heart failure physician is a good idea if you:

  • Were admitted to the hospital for congestion within the last year
  •  Are on medications and still not as active as you would like to be
  • Have suffered from a shock from a defibrillator
  • Have kidney problems related to your heart failure

For more information, visit the UA Sarver Heart Center’s Heart Health webpage.  Also, Heart Failure Society's patient education modules.

About the UA Sarver Heart Center

The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center’s more than 135 members include faculty from cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric cardiology, neurology, vascular surgery, radiology, endocrinology, emergency medicine, nursing, pharmacy and basic sciences. The UA Sarver Heart Center emphasizes a highly collaborative research environment, fostering innovative translational or “bench-to-bedside” research and working toward a future free of heart disease and stroke. If you would like to give permission for Sarver Heart Center to contact you about heart research studies, please complete a Cardiology Research Registry Information Form.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: http://uahs.arizona.edu