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Heart Failure

Heart Failure - Treatments

A variety of treatment methods are available to manage and prevent one’s condition from progressing. Heart failure is usually treated with lifestyle changes, medicines and procedures or surgeries.

Lifestyle changes

  • Exercise
Appropriate exercise such as walking, cycling, swimming, or low-impact aerobic exercises may be recommended. However, it is important for heart failure patients to create an exercise programme with guidance from their doctors. The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) offers a Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and Preventive Cardiology Programme for patients identified to have multiple risk factors for heart disease or who have just undergone an open-heart surgery. The programme includes supervised exercise programmes, to help patients in their recovery journey.
  • Eat a healthy diet and stay within a healthy weight range
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is crucial to preventing the worsening of heart failure. Cutting down on salt intake is the key to reducing swelling in the legs, feet and abdomen.

Dietary changes to maintain proper weight and reduction of salt intake may be needed. Reducing salt intake helps to lessen swelling in the legs, feet and abdomen
  • Stop smoking or using harming drugs
  • Eliminate or reduce alcohol consumption


Generally, the medications prescribed for heart failure help to:
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate down
  • Strengthen the heart
  • Relieve symptoms of heart failure

Individuals should consult their doctor for the suitable medications for their heart failure condition.

Procedures or Surgeries 

Surgery may be needed to correct abnormalities of the heart or heart valves that cause heart failure. Congenital heart defects and abnormal heart valves can be repaired with surgery. Blocked coronary arteries can usually be treated with angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery.

An angioplasty may be recommended for patients who have blocked arteries. This procedure is usually performed in the cardiac catheterisation laboratory, where a stent is expanded across a coronary blockage with a balloon. The balloon is deflated and removed, leaving the stent to keep the artery open. 

A stent is inserted into the narrow or blocked artery to open it up and improve blood flow

  • Coronary artery bypass surgery
A coronary artery bypass surgery might be recommended if blocked arteries are causing your heart to fail. This involves taking a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body, such as the leg, arm or chest wall, and connecting it above and below the blocked arteries in your heart. This allows blood to flow around the blockage. 
For patients with severe heart failure that cannot be treated with medications or surgery, doctors might recommend replacing the damaged heart with a healthy one.
Faulty heart valves affect the regulation of blood flow inside the heart, putting additional strain on your heart. As such, doctors might recommend repairing or replacing the valve. This can be done in a variety of ways – an open heart surgery, minimally invasive surgery or cardiac catheterisation

Heart devices

Severe or end-stage heart failure may cause extensive damage to the heart muscles which cannot be treated with conventional medication and procedures. In such cases, patients are usually considered for mechanical assist devices. 

When patients suffer from heart failure, the two ventricles in the heart might no longer be contracting in synchronisation. The CRT emits electrical signals to ensure the ventricles contract at the same time, thus allowing the heart to beat more systematically and efficiently.
Heart failure patients with low ejection fraction are at risk for life threatening arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm). The role of an ICD is to monitor the heart rhythm and if it detects these dangerous arrhythmias, it will deliver a shock to stop the risky rhythms. 

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator’s components and functions
The VAD is usually recommended for patients with severe heart failure and are either unsuitable for a heart transplant or are waiting for a suitable donor. The VAD pumps blood from the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) to the aorta, effectively replacing the pumping action of the heart to maintain blood circulation. 

National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) Heart Failure Clinic

The clinic adopts a team approach to treat heart failure through a structured outpatient programme to prolong survival, improve quality of life and reduce hospital admissions. A specialist nurse clinician is on hand to provide phone consultations to patients.

Learn more on our Heart Failure Programme here.

Heart Failure - Preparing for surgery

Heart Failure - Post-surgery care

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