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Health Hotline: Heart disease, failure can be treated effectively

Published: Friday, Feb. 8 2013 3:41 p.m. MST

Margaret Moses, FNP of the Intermountain Heart Institute is photographed at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray on Thursday, Feb.7, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Though it may sound serious, heart failure isn't always a death sentence.

Even with numerous and lifelong medications, and sometimes implementation of advanced therapies, patients can live long and healthy lives, according to Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute nurse practitioner Margaret Moses. She said one of the best parts of her job is "seeing someone go from being so, so sick when they come in, get better and go on to see their grand-kids born and spend time with their families."

"It's one place you can really see a difference in patients and it's phenomenal," Moses said.

Moses and Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Deborah Budge will answer questions on heart health during Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Health Hotline. Those interested are welcome to call the toll-free hotline, 1-800-925-8177, between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturday, or post a question on the Deseret News Facebook page, www.facebook.com/deseretnews.

Heart failure and heart disease can impact anyone, at any age, but the majority of patients tend to be in their 50s, Moses said. She said a lot of hearts get sick because of poor genes or familial conditions. Sometimes a reason for the malady is unknown and other times, coronary artery disease is to blame.

Another contributing factor can be arrhythmias or atrial fibrillation, which, over time, can also weaken the heart, causing it to ultimately fail.

"Once you're diagnosed with heart failure, it doesn't matter the reason why, but you have certain things that need to be done to prevent progression of the disease and to keep them out of the hospital," Moses said, adding that the Heart Institute has a team approach to get patients the help they need.

Patients who end up with a strict medication regimen, including possible beta blockers, ace inhibitors, diuretics and/or other drugs, typically must take them for life, even if their heart condition gets better.

Moses said it's likely the medication that helped repair the heart in the first place.

When patients don't recover with medications, they might be recommended for various procedures, including implantation of an artificial heart or a left ventricular assist device, that at least partially replaces the functioning of a failing heart. Such patients can "go on about their daily lives" with the device and often live long after, Moses said.

Still, others may need a heart transplant. Once on a transplant list, patients wait depending on their blood type and other factors, until they can get a new heart and thus, a new lease on life.

Moses said heart transplants are quite successful, but dealing with the waiting and ultimately, the procedure, can be hard on the emotions of the patient and their families. Some patients require antidepressants, which can help with their mood and give them hope, she said.

"A lot of times, they don't realize how sick they are," she said. The heart is a complicated organ and many people just live with a deteriorating condition, getting used to the impact it has on their lives. But, Moses said, help is available in most situations.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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