The Heart Function Clinic at Hickory Cardiology Associates

This year alone, 550,000 men and women will be diagnosed with congestive heart failure in the United States and more than 50,000 people will die from it. According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 4.9 million Americans suffer from this disease.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart loses its ability to pump enough blood through the body, sometimes causing fluid build-up and difficulty breathing. The word “congestive” is sometimes added to the term “heart failure” to describe fluid build-up in the lungs due to heart failure, but these patients usually do not have fluid build-up all of the time.

Common symptoms of heart failure include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Weight gain
  • Swelling of the feet, legs and abdomen
  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty performing everyday activities such as climbing stairs or doing yard work.

Here are some steps heart failure patients can take to enhance recovery and prevent the likelihood of repeat hospitalizations.

  • Eat a low-sodium (salt) diet.
  • Decrease fluid intake.
  • Get enough exercise.
  • Take medicines as prescribed.
  • Get weighed daily.
  • Call their health care provider when symptoms occur.

Gradual worsening of a heart failure patient’s condition can easily go unrecognized, leading to hospitalization and advanced stages of the disease. That’s why the Heart Function Clinic at Hickory Cardiology Associates offers close follow-up of congestive heart failure patients in a nurse practitioner-managed clinic.

Preventing frequent hospitalizations

Our goal is to prevent frequent hospital admissions. So if shortness of breath, weight gain, increased weakness or worsening cough occur, we ask the patient to call the office and be seen within a day or so. This way, the symptoms can be treated before the patient gets to the point of needing emergency room care or hospital admission.

Sara Paul, the clinic’s nurse practitioner, has specialized in heart failure treatment since 1995. She established the first heart failure clinic at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, and developed a similar treatment center at Hickory Cardiology Associates in 2002.

Teaching patients how to feel better

As a nurse practitioner, Sara has advanced education and is certified to diagnose diseases, write prescriptions and treat illnesses. She also teaches patients about their heart problem and provides information to help patients take care of themselves. When patients follow her instructions, they are more likely to feel better and live better with their heart condition.

At each clinic visit, Sara evaluates the medicines that patients are taking and decides if they are the best choices at the best doses for heart failure. She has extensive experience in adjusting heart failure medicines – to help patients feel as well as possible while receiving the most benefit from their medications.

When Sara reviews patients’ medications, she explains what each medicine is for and how it should be taken. At each visit, she examines the patient carefully, looking for symptoms of heart failure. She makes necessary changes to the patient’s medicine dose and decides if medicines need to be added or discontinued. She often speaks with patients on the telephone between visits to check on their condition.

A healthy partnership – you, your cardiologist and Sara

Heart failure often requires close attention and frequent visits to the cardiologist’s office. Being seen in the Heart Function Clinic does not replace the relationship that patients have with their cardiologist. Rather, Sara acts in partnership with all the doctors and physician assistants at Hickory Cardiology to offer closer care and provide the most current treatments available.

Clinics like this one have helped people with heart failure all over the country for many years. We know that patients will be satisfied with the attention we are able to offer through this special clinic. Please feel free to ask questions about heart failure, about your care, or about any of the information we have provided. It’s our job to help you help yourself live better with your heart problem.