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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Heart failure treatments can extend life, from the Harvard Heart Letter

People with heart failure once faced severely shortened lives. Today, proper use of medications and devices can boost the pumping power of a failing heart and help people with heart failure enjoy a good quality of life for many years, reports the October 2012 Harvard Heart Letter.

"When I started a heart failure clinic 30 years ago, few patients lived more than five years, and most of those with advanced heart failure died within two years. Now I see patients with advanced heart failure living 20 years," says Dr. Lynne Warner Stevenson, a heart failure specialist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Clinical trials have identified therapies that most effectively control symptoms and prevent death. But not all therapies work in every person, and not every person with heart failure needs all these treatments.

Virtually everyone with heart failure that affects the heart's left pumping chamber should take a beta blocker plus an ACE inhibitor or angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB). These drugs have been shown to slow the progression of heart failure and decrease the amount of work the heart must do to pump effectively.

After that, treatment must be personalized. Other options include:

  • Diuretics for those who retain fluid
  • Hydralazine-nitrate if symptoms are not controlled with a beta blocker and an ACE inhibitor or ARB
  • Eplerenone or spironolactone to help prevent the formation of fibers that stiffen heart muscle
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy to better coordinate the heart's contractions and improve its pumping power
  • An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator to prevent sudden death in those who have survived a cardiac arrest, and possibly others

For more information on heart failure treatments, read the full-length article: "Treatments for heart failure"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • Treatments for heart failure
  • Ask the doctors: Do I have heart disease?
  • Ask the doctors: Could I have serious kidney damage?
  • When should we treat blood pressure?
  • Carotid stenosis treatments compared
  • Women: Cardiac rehab key to recovery
  • Muscle aches and pains from statin use
  • New devices compensate for foot drop
  • Aspirin not effective in some people
  • Heart advances from Harvard: Fat that's bad for the heart, brain
  • Heart advances from Harvard: ER evaluation methods compared
  • Heart advances from Harvard: Impact of inactivity assessed
  • Heart Beat: "Smart pill" won't let you forget to take your medications

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.