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Hoag Helps Patients Live Fully with Heart Failure

Cathy Bochynski’s father died of heart failure many years ago. But thanks to the expert care she is receiving at Hoag, the 71-year-old is facing her own diagnosis of heart failure with hope.
Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute is ranked in the top 10% in the nation for care that preserves patients’ heart function and quality of life. Hoag’s comprehensive treatment options, vast network of specialists, leading cardiology team and state-of-the-art techniques and equipment help patients like Cathy improve after years of declining health.

Cardiologist Ethan A. Yalvac, M.D., explained to Cathy that while nearly half of the 6.5 million U.S. adults who have heart failure die within five years of diagnosis, having the right medical team can make a big difference.

“When I heard, ‘you have heart failure,’ I felt it was a terminal thing. But Dr. Yalvac explained to me that it’s not,” she said. “He showed me that my situation would be different.”

With heart failure, the heart is not strong enough to pump enough blood to meet the body’s nutrition and oxygen needs, blood begins to back up. As a result, veins, tissues and lungs become congested with fluid. People contending with heart failure can experience shortness of breath and fatigue. If the condition worsens, heart failure unfortunately can lead to death.

To determine Cathy’s condition, Dr. Yalvac gave her an extensive physical examination, including taking a close look at her neck veins, listening to her breath and noting her edema, or swelling of the feet or lower legs. She underwent blood tests and several imaging exams at Hoag, including a coronary angiogram and an echocardiogram. Determining that she could benefit from a cardioversion, Dr. Yalvac performed the painless, outpatient procedure to correct her heart rhythm. Nearly two months later, a follow-up echocardiogram showed her heart function had recovered significantly.

Her blood pressure is improving, she now takes Pilates classes and is even planning a European vacation. “Staying active is one of the best things people can do to prevent or control heart disease and heart failure,” said Dipti Itchhaporia, M.D., director of heart failure disease management at Hoag.

“To prevent heart failure, patients can aggressively manage all their cardiac risk factors, such as prioritizing exercise; controlling blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, and avoiding the development of diabetes,” she said. “For people who already have heart failure, I recommend watching their salt intake, doing daily weigh-ins and taking guideline-directed medical therapy. It is possible to live with heart failure, if you are diagnosed early and stick to your treatment plan.”

Hoag’s Heart Failure Program partners with patients’ cardiologists to provide options from early-prevention through late-stage heart failure. This comprehensive approach connects patients to a multidisciplinary team of specialists that deliver coordinated care through evidence-based medical management.

In treating her heart failure, Cathy said that Dr. Yalvac also addressed the edema in her legs that had so negatively affected her quality of life. He cauterized problematic veins in her legs, alleviating her pain and swelling. He also coordinated her care with other Hoag specialists, flagging troubling results in her blood work and referring her to a Hoag kidney specialist who is now treating Cathy for issues that might have otherwise gone undiagnosed.

The collaborative approach Hoag has taken to Cathy’s care leaves her feeling confident in her team and in her future: “That’s the important thing,” she said. “They really listen.”

To learn more about heart failure, please click here