doctor visits. “It is a lot for the patient to digest,” Yancy
said, “and it is incredibly helpful for the caregiver to step
up and make a difference.”
In addition to the involvement of family members,
Yancy suggests that it is important for HF patients with
heart muscle intact to work closely with a HF nurse or
other mid-level provider. “They’re able to be readily
accessible to the patient,” Yancy said. They are trained to
recognize problems caused by the other condition, such
as AFib or kidney problems. “There are a number of
questions that have to be addressed in this condition that
Yancy emphasizes that part of the problem of HF is
the confusion between heart attack and heart failure.
“Heart failure basically implies defeat from the word
‘go,’” he said. “We spend a lot of time trying to reorient
patients that there is something that can be done. We
can treat this; we can help you do better.
“And there is ongoing research that is getting closer to
identifying which of these co-occurring conditions might
be the culprit condition. If we correct that condition, the
heart failure will go away. But the real enthusiasm in heart
failure with intact function is the evidence that’s emerging
now that we may be able to prevent this condition,
especially with regard to the treatment of high blood
pressure. Imagine not having to ever have a condition.
That’s so much better than dealing with what we’ve just
been talking about. We may not be that far away from
Queen Latifah & Her Mom
Adapted from American Heart Association News Blog
Rita Owens taught high school art for many years,
and she had that sweet disposition that goes with that
profession. She ended every class with the same little
ditty — “Clean up, please.” Her tone was that of a loving
mother and, in a sense, she was. Owens cared for these
students so much that she ran an after-school program that
helped steer kids in the right direction in life.
So her daughter, entertainer Queen Latifah, knew
something was wrong when she called her mother’s
classroom one afternoon and heard her mom deliver that
trademark tune with “a little less of a song to it — not
the same brightness.”
“I could hear her being more short-tempered with her
students,” Latifah said. “She had a lot of patience, so if
she was short, it was very noticeable. I also noticed she
was more fatigued. I could tell she wasn’t feeling well.”
Rita was an energetic woman who didn’t smoke or
drink, and was never overweight. To her loved ones, this
change in her personality was more of a curiosity than a
Until the day when she passed out at school.
Latifah was in the hospital when the doctor delivered
her mother’s diagnosis: heart failure.
That’s a scary phrase for anyone. For Latifah, it was
magnified because about a year earlier her grandmother
died from it. As Rita’s doctor discussed which medicines
she should take, Latifah recognized several as being the
same ones her grandmother had taken.
“But my mom was in her 50s!” Latifah told the
doctor. “She’s too young for this. What does it mean?
She’s going to be OK, isn’t she?”
No one could say so on that day, but it’s been 11
years and Rita is still going strong. So strong that she
and Latifah are working with the American Heart
Association to spread the word that patients can “Rise
Above Heart Failure,” and to help teach them how.
There are good reasons to be optimistic that we can
make a difference. The best reasons are the success
stories — the people like Rita.
Rita has been a model patient, from taking medication
to making lifestyle changes, such as following a low-sodium diet.
She received an implantable defibrillator to protect her
heart from going into cardiac arrest. She also uses oxygen
to help with a lung problem, one she believes stems from
her heart condition. (She also has sleep apnea; a sleep
study following her heart failure diagnosis showed that she
stopped breathing more than 100 times in a night.)
Latifah and her siblings dote on Rita, providing all the
personal attention they can. They also realize that they,
too, are at risk.
The most common symptoms of heart failure are:
• Swelling (edema) in the feet, ankles,
legs and fingers
• Shortness of breath
Other ways to tell that your heart might not be
working the way it should be include:
• Coughing up pinkish, blood-tinged mucus.
• Confusion, difficulty thinking, dizziness
• Changes in your eating habits or appetite.