How one woman’s surprise heart failure diagnosis changed her life
Posted: April 28, 2020 | Word Count: 1,202
“I was scared. As a single mom with a 13-year-old son, I had no idea what was in store or how it would change my life,” said Kim Lewis, now 53.
To Lewis, working hard and taking care of her family was second nature. Yet nothing could prepare her for the challenges she began facing in her early 30s. She never considered that her increasing exhaustion was a sign that she had a serious health condition, and she certainly never imagined that it meant she had a problem with her heart.
Lewis vividly recalls the experience—after weeks of difficulty breathing with a debilitating, persistent cough, she knew something was not right. Her primary care physician initially diagnosed her with pneumonia, and then bronchitis, but the treatment prescribed didn’t help. It wasn’t until Lewis was referred to a lung specialist who rushed her off to the ER that she learned of her shocking diagnosis: she was suffering from heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), a chronic condition in which the heart is too weak to pump blood around the body efficiently. The condition can also change the structure of the heart so it may not work as well.
Over the next several years, Lewis was repeatedly readmitted to the hospital—at one point she was there for more than 6 weeks. This physical and emotional toll of repeated hospitalizations also impacted her young son, who always stayed by her side.
Eventually, Lewis was prescribed ENTRESTO® (sacubitril/valsartan) tablets, a first-choice therapy for HFrEF that can be started in or out of the hospital. While treatment impacts everyone differently, Lewis’s ongoing cycle of hospitalizations has stopped. Since starting ENTRESTO almost two years ago, she hasn’t been back to the hospital for the condition. This treatment helps to improve the heart’s ability to pump blood to the body and is the only medicine proven better at helping people stay alive and out of the hospital longer compared to a commonly used heart failure medicine.
Reducing patients’ chances of needing to go to the hospital is a key goal of heart failure treatment, as hospitalization is a sign that the condition is progressing—as well as an enormous burden on patients and healthcare systems. Hospitalizations for heart failure occur about two times every minute annually in the United States, which amounts to about 900,000 hospitalizations each year. About half of the people with heart failure have HFrEF.
It’s important to know that symptoms of the condition can mistakenly be attributed to getting older. These symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling in ankles and legs.
Lewis was determined to not let her condition keep her down for long. In partnership with her healthcare provider, she is following a plan of eating a low-salt diet, getting regular physical activity and taking ENTRESTO as part of her medication regimen.
Today, Lewis makes the most of her days by volunteering at a local community group, teaching water aerobics at her local health club and cherishing moments with her son and other loved ones. She strives to live by her personal motto: you only live once.
As one of the more than 6 million people living with heart failure in the U.S., Lewis encourages everyone, especially women, to pay attention to any symptoms they are experiencing and advocate for themselves. She also urges those living with the condition to partner with their healthcare provider to develop an overall treatment plan that is right for them. To learn more about ENTRESTO for heart failure patients, go to ENTRESTO.com.
ENTRESTO (sacubitril/valsartan) is a prescription medicine used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death and heart failure hospitalization in adults with long-lasting (chronic) heart failure (HFrEF). It is also used to treat heart failure in children 1 to less than 18 years old.1 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.1 Heart failure occurs when the heart is weak and cannot pump enough blood to your lungs and the rest of your body. It is not known if ENTRESTO is safe and effective in children less than 1 year old.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
ENTRESTO can harm or cause death to an unborn baby. Patients should talk to their doctor about other ways to treat heart failure if they plan to become pregnant. If a patient gets pregnant while taking ENTRESTO, she should tell her doctor right away.
Patients are not to take ENTRESTO if they are allergic to sacubitril or valsartan or any of the ingredients in ENTRESTO; have had an allergic reaction including swelling of the face, lips, tongue, throat or trouble breathing while taking a type of medicine called an ACE inhibitor or ARB; or take an ACE inhibitor medicine. Patients are not to take ENTRESTO for at least 36 hours before or after they take an ACE inhibitor medicine. Patients should talk with their doctor or pharmacist before taking ENTRESTO if they are not sure if they take an ACE inhibitor medicine. Patients are not to take ENTRESTO if they have diabetes and take a medicine that contains aliskiren.
Before they take ENTRESTO, patients should tell their doctor about all of their medical conditions, including if they have kidney or liver problems; or a history of hereditary angioedema; are pregnant or plan to become pregnant; are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Patients should either take ENTRESTO or breastfeed. They should not do both.
Patients should tell their doctor about all the medicines they take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. They should especially tell their doctor if they 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.
ENTRESTO may cause serious side effects including serious allergic reactions causing swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat (angioedema) that may cause trouble breathing and death. Patients are to get emergency medical help right away if they have symptoms of angioedema or trouble breathing. Patients are not to take ENTRESTO again if they have had angioedema while taking ENTRESTO. People who are black or who have had angioedema may have a higher risk of having angioedema if they take ENTRESTO. ENTRESTO may cause low blood pressure (hypotension). Patients are to call their doctor if they become dizzy or lightheaded, or they develop extreme fatigue. ENTRESTO may cause kidney problems or an increased amount of potassium in the blood.
The most common side effects in adults were low blood pressure, high potassium, cough, dizziness, and kidney problems.
The side effects in pediatric patients were consistent with those observed in adults.
Please see full Prescribing Information, including Boxed WARNING available at http://www.pharma.us.novartis.com/product/pi/pdf/entresto.pdf
Patients are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Novartis is committed to providing patients with affordable access and resources through Entresto Central. For more information, please call 1-888-ENTRESTO or visit www.ENTRESTO.com.