The symptoms that led one woman to a heart failure diagnosis
Posted: September 27, 2019 | Word Count: 1,095
Chris, a wife, mother, grandmother and medical researcher, believes she first experienced symptoms of heart failure (HF) more than six months before her diagnosis. “I couldn’t breathe,” Chris recalls. “That was the only symptom I noticed.” The difficulty breathing continued to worsen over months, but Chris carried on her regular activities of traveling, hiking and playing with her grandchildren. She attributed the shortness of breath to asthma, for which she was prescribed an inhaler.
It wasn’t until Chris was traveling for work when she felt the urgency to go to an emergency room for her breathing problems. A cardiologist in the hospital diagnosed her with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), a chronic and progressive condition where the heart can’t pump enough blood to the body. She and her doctor determined a treatment plan that was best for her, including ENTRESTO® (sacubitril/valsartan), a first-choice therapy for people with this type of long-lasting HF.
Looking back to the night of her diagnosis, Chris recalls that she could not breathe when reclining. “Something in my head said, ‘This isn’t right.’” Knowing she could not ignore the warning signs any longer, she asked the hotel to call an ambulance for her. Once at the emergency room, a physician ran tests before diagnosing her with this type of HF.
At 61, Chris is one of approximately 6 million Americans living with HF, and around half of all cases are for HFrEF, the same type of long-lasting HF Chris has. About 900,000 HF patients can be hospitalized annually for HF like Chris — that’s about two hospitalizations every minute. Hospitalizations for HF are a sign that the condition is worsening.
Chris and her husband, Mark, were initially shocked and scared by the hospitalization and diagnosis. “Because I work in the medical field,” Chris admits, “I understood the gravity of the diagnosis and feared having to be hospitalized again.” The first 30 days following HF hospitalization often have a poor outlook for patients – one in four patients may be readmitted during this vulnerable time and up to 10% may die.
For Chris and Mark, telling their children about her diagnosis and hospitalization was one of the most emotionally tolling parts of Chris’ HF journey. “We wanted to comfort them and tell them everything was going to be alright,” she recalls. “But we were scared, too.”
HF hospitalizations are a hallmark of disease progression. A goal is to manage HF so patients don’t need to go to the hospital. Chris was prescribed ENTRESTO, a medicine proven superior at keeping patients alive and out of the hospital longer than a leading HF medication. Now, new research complements these findings and support the use of ENTRESTO as foundation therapy. While there are limitations to these data, they show that ENTRESTO can be started in appropriate stabilized patients in the hospital instead of waiting until discharge.
Chris was determined not to let her diagnosis keep her from doing the things she loves. She now is focusing on the factors of her life she can control, including eating a low-salt diet, getting regular physical activity and taking her medications, including ENTRESTO. While every patient is different, Chris has not been hospitalized since her diagnosis.
When reflecting on the few months leading up to her diagnosis, Chris admits she had been ignoring the shortness of breath and denying other symptoms, like swelling of her ankles. She encourages her family and other people to take charge of their health and not to ignore the little voice in your head telling you something isn’t right with your body, even if you are afraid.
Learn more at ENTRESTO.com.
What is ENTRESTO?
ENTRESTO is a prescription medicine used to reduce the risk of death and hospitalization in people with certain types of long-lasting (chronic) heart failure. ENTRESTO is usually used with other heart failure therapies, in place of an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or other angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) therapy.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
What is the most important information I should know about ENTRESTO?
ENTRESTO can harm or cause death to your unborn baby. Talk to your doctor about other ways to treat heart failure if you plan to become pregnant. If you get pregnant while taking ENTRESTO, tell your doctor right away.
Who should not take ENTRESTO?
Do not take ENTRESTO if you
- are allergic to sacubitril or valsartan or any of the ingredients in ENTRESTO
- have had an allergic reaction including swelling of your face, lips, tongue, throat (angioedema) or trouble breathing while taking a type of medicine called an ACE inhibitor or ARB
- take an ACE inhibitor medicine. Do not take ENTRESTO for at least 36 hours before or after you take an ACE inhibitor medicine. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking ENTRESTO if you are not sure if you take an ACE inhibitor medicine
- have diabetes and take a medicine that contains aliskiren
What should I tell my doctor before taking ENTRESTO?
Before you take ENTRESTO, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions, including if you have kidney or liver problems or a history of hereditary angioedema; are pregnant or plan to become pregnant; are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. You should either take ENTRESTO or breastfeed. You should not do both.
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take potassium supplements or a salt substitute; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); lithium; or other medicines for high blood pressure or heart problems such as an ACE inhibitor, ARB, or aliskiren.
What are the possible side effects of ENTRESTO?
ENTRESTO may cause serious side effects including:
- angioedema that may cause trouble breathing and death. Get emergency medical help right away if you have symptoms of angioedema or trouble breathing. Do not take ENTRESTO again if you have had angioedema while taking ENTRESTO. People who are Black or who have had angioedema and take ENTRESTO may have a higher risk of having angioedema
- low blood pressure (hypotension). Call your doctor if you become dizzy or lightheaded, or you develop extreme fatigue
- kidney problems
- increased amount of potassium in your blood
The most common side effects were low blood pressure, high potassium, cough, dizziness, and kidney problems.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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