In our previous articles, we’ve discussed the symptoms of heart failure and the steps to diagnose the same. However, the course of treatment varies for every patient based on the type of heart failure they’ve developed.
Depending on the part of the heart’s pumping cycle that’s been affected, there are two types of heart failure. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at diastolic dysfunction and its symptoms.
What Causes Diastolic Dysfunction?
The diastolic phase refers to the part of the heart’s pumping cycle when the ventricles (lower chambers) relax and let blood flow in from the atria (upper chambers). Diastolic dysfunction is a condition in which the ventricles don’t relax enough. That, in turn, prevents the normal amount of blood from entering the heart.
Diastolic dysfunction is caused when the heart muscles become thicker and stiffer than usual. It’s more common in older women with hypertension and diabetes. If left untreated, it can lead to diastolic heart failure (also known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction).
What Does Preserved Ejection Fraction Mean?
Ejection fraction refers to the volume of blood pumped out from the heart’s left ventricle with each contraction. For a healthy heart, the number falls in the range of 55% to 65%. A lower ejection fraction is one of the most common indicators of heart failure.
However, it’s worth noting that many people with diastolic dysfunction have an ejection fraction of 50% or more (which is known as preserved ejection fraction). That means the left ventricle expels an adequate amount of oxygenated blood.
However, the heart muscle doesn’t relax enough to let a sufficient quantity of blood in. That, in turn, causes the excess blood to back up in the lungs and results in fluid buildup in the feet and abdomen.
How to differentiate systolic from diastolic dysfunction ?
In contrast to systolic dysfunction where the heart muscle is “weak”, in diastolic dysfunction the heart is “stiff”. This means that the heart is unable to pump blood out of the heart in systolic dysfunction whereas the heart is unable to accept further blood in diastolic dysfunction. Both conditions lead to congestion or fluid accumulation in various organs of the body. Differentiation of heart failure from systolic and diastolic dysfunction is not possible as both diseases present with similar symptoms.
Which conditions lead to Diastolic dysfunction?
- Diastolic dysfunction appears consequent to uncontrolled or long-standing diabetes
- Obesity as well as elderly people
- Women and atrial fibrillation
The best way to prevent and treat diastolic dysfunction is by effective control of the diseases mentioned above.
Symptoms of Diastolic Dysfunction
The most common symptom of diastolic dysfunction is congestion and shortness of breath due to the buildup of blood and fluid in the lungs. Breathing difficulties can get particularly worse during exertion or when lying.
Other symptoms of diastolic dysfunction include:
- Coughing and wheezing (due to lung congestion)
- Loss of appetite and nausea (due to fluid buildup around the liver and in the stomach)
- Swollen feet, legs, and abdomen (due to fluid accumulation)
If you experience any of the given symptoms, it’s crucial to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Treatment of Diastolic Dysfunction
Treatment of diastolic dysfunction involves a combination of medications (diuretics or water pills) and lifestyle changes. In severe cases, a patient might need left ventricular assist devices or a heart transplant.
Is Diastolic Dysfunction Serious?
In the long run, diastolic dysfunction can lead to diastolic heart failure. That, in turn, increases your risk of hospitalization and death. Therefore, you should pay close attention to your symptoms and reach out to a doctor whenever you notice anything unusual.
Dr. C Raghu is a renowned cardiologist who specializes in interventional cardiology. He has decades of experience in treating patients with different heart conditions. If you or anyone you know has developed symptoms like shortness of breath, swollen feet, loss of appetite, etc., contact Dr. Raghu to explore your treatment options.