What is HFrEF? Understanding the Heart of Heart Failure

Heart failure (HF) is a prevalent condition that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the American Heart Association, about 6.5 million adults in the United States have heart failure, with more than half of them having reduced ejection fraction. One form of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction is known as HFrEF.

This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of HFrEF, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

What is HFrEF?

Heart failure is a chronic condition that occurs when the heart muscle fails to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. HFrEF, also known as systolic heart failure, occurs when the left ventricle of the heart cannot contract adequately to pump enough blood to the body. This results in a reduction in the ejection fraction of the heart, which is the percentage of blood that is pumped out of the heart with each heartbeat.

A normal ejection fraction is usually between 50-75%. In HFrEF, the ejection fraction is less than 40%.

What are the causes of HFrEF?

The most common causes of HFrEF include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypertension
  • Valve disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

What are the symptoms of HFrEF?

The symptoms of HFrEF may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Inability to exercise
  • Swelling in the legs, feet, ankles or abdomen
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Cough or wheezing

How is HFrEF diagnosed?

HFrEF is typically diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and cardiac tests. Some of the tests used to diagnose HFrEF include:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Chest x-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Blood tests
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

What are the treatments for HFrEF?

Treatment options for HFrEF may include:

  • Medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics
  • Implanted devices such as pacemakers or defibrillators
  • Cardiac rehabilitation programs
  • Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and exercising regularly
  • Surgery such as coronary artery bypass grafting or heart valve surgery

How can HFrEF be prevented?

HFrEF may be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, managing underlying medical conditions, and avoiding risk factors. Some of the ways to prevent HFrEF include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Exercising regularly
  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Treating diabetes
  • Stopping smoking

Conclusion

HF with reduced ejection fraction, known as HFrEF, is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the left ventricle of the heart cannot contract adequately to pump enough blood to the body. HFrEF may be caused by underlying medical conditions such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, and valve disease. The symptoms of HFrEF may include shortness of breath, fatigue, and weakness. Treatment options may include medications, implanted devices, cardiac rehabilitation programs, lifestyle changes, and surgery. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, managing underlying medical conditions, and avoiding risk factors may help prevent HFrEF from developing.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What is HFrEF?
  • HFrEF is a form of heart failure that occurs when the left ventricle of the heart cannot contract adequately to pump enough blood to the body.

  • What causes HFrEF?
  • The causes of HFrEF may include coronary artery disease, hypertension, valve disease, cardiomyopathy, heart attack, diabetes, obesity, and smoking.

  • What are the symptoms of HFrEF?
  • The symptoms of HFrEF may include shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness, chest pain or discomfort, inability to exercise, swelling in the legs, feet, ankles or abdomen, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and cough or wheezing.

  • How is HFrEF diagnosed?
  • HFrEF is typically diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, and cardiac tests such as echocardiogram, chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), blood tests, cardiac catheterization, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  • What are the treatments for HFrEF?
  • Treatment options for HFrEF may include medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics, implanted devices such as pacemakers or defibrillators, cardiac rehabilitation programs, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and exercising regularly, and surgery such as coronary artery bypass grafting or heart valve surgery.

  • How can HFrEF be prevented?
  • HFrEF may be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, managing underlying medical conditions, and avoiding risk factors. Some of the ways to prevent HFrEF include maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, controlling high blood pressure, treating diabetes, and stopping smoking.

References:

American Heart Association. (2021). Heart Failure. https://www.heart.org/-/media/data-import/downloadables/pe-abh-why-heart-failure-matters-ucm_443312.pdf

Mayo Clinic. (2021). Heart failure. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373114

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2021). Heart Failure. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-failure

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