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Heart Health

What is palliative care for heart failure?

December 1, 2021

With a focus on comfort and quality of life, this specialty is gradually moving into cardiac care.

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Many people who’ve heard of palliative care assume that it’s only for people with terminal cancer. Or they believe palliative care is synonymous with hospice care. Neither is true. And growing evidence supports the value of palliative care for people with heart failure, in which a weakened heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

"Palliative care is a way of caring for patients with serious illness that prioritizes their quality of life," says Dr. Haider Warraich, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital who specializes in advanced heart failure and is an expert in palliative care. Palliative care strives to keep people free of pain and other distressing symptoms, such as breathlessness and nausea. It also includes talking with the person and their family about their values and personal goals, which helps guide other treatments and interventions they may receive (see "Advance care planning").

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