Dr. George Sokos

The American Heart Association estimates that one in five people will develop heart failure. While it is a serious condition, many people diagnosed with heart failure can lead a normal life. WVU Heart and Vascular Institute’s George Sokos, DO, discusses the myths and facts about this condition and how to manage heart failure with lifestyle changes and medical interventions.

MYTH: Your heart stops beating when you have heart failure.
Your heart can still function with heart failure, but it is impaired by damage to the heart muscle or valves. The heart is not able to pump as well as it should, and blood and fluid may back up into the lungs causing congestive heart failure or a lack of oxygen in parts of the body.

MYTH: A heart attack is the main cause of heart failure.
While a heart attack is one of the causes of heart failure, there are several other conditions that can make the heart pump abnormally. The most common causes of heart failure include heart attack, high blood pressure, problems with the heart valves, and cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle).

FACT: You may need a series of tests to diagnose heart failure.
When diagnosing diseases such as heart failure, there are several tests that need to be completed as part of your evaluation. These tests may include an echocardiogram (ultrasound of your heart), a chest x-ray, an electrocardiogram (checks your heart’s electrical activity), a stress test, and cardiac catheterization. The WVU Heart and Vascular Institute offers these tests provided by the area’s only specially-trained heart failure physicians.

FACT: The most advanced treatment for heart failure is available in West Virginia.
The WVU Heart and Vascular Institute provides excellent care for patients with multiple cardiovascular disorders, including heart failure. At the Center for Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiovascular Research, our patients have access to the most current procedures and treatments. Our experts provide timely diagnosis and treatment, including inpatient and outpatient care. Services range from diagnosis to surgical interventions and cardiac rehabilitation.

FACT: You’ll be able to do many things you did before heart failure.
Although it can be difficult to live with a chronic condition like heart failure, many patients continue to work and perform their daily activities with some adjustments. You may need to reduce work hours, avoid heavy lifting, manage stress effectively, and take any other recommended steps to protect your heart. Your doctor, nurse, or cardiac rehab team will help you form a plan that supports your daily activities.

MYTH: You need to exercise less if you have heart failure.
Even with heart failure, it’s important to exercise to strengthen your heart muscle and boost your overall health and well-being. Develop an exercise plan with your doctor and discuss how much activity is okay for you. Walking anywhere from 20-30 minutes a day is a low-impact, heart-healthy activity.

FACT: For severe heart failure, devices and surgical procedures may be necessary.
Your heart failure treatment will depend on your individual health needs and a personalized plan developed by your heart failure team. The WVU Heart and Vascular Institute offers the most advanced treatment methods available, including devices to monitor patients at home to help us adjust medications to more advanced therapies, such as surgically-implanted ventricular assist devices that help extend life and allow patients to wait for cardiac transplant.

Are you concerned about heart failure? Make an appointment with a WVU Heart and Vascular Institute physician for an evaluation: 855-WVU-CARE