Short-term goals of heart failure management are directed toward relieving symptoms such as shortness of breath, decreased exercise tolerance, and lower-extremity edema and improving functional and capacity quality of life. Long-term goals include decreasing mortality and slowing or reversing the underlying cardiac structural abnormalities of heart failure. Improvement in symptomatic endpoints (e.g., exercise tolerance) does not necessarily correlate with endpoints for improved survival (e.g., left ventricular ejection fraction). It is therefore important to evaluate the effects of drugs on these distinct endpoints separately. Symptoms of heart failure are commonly managed with the use of diuretics, vasodilators, and positive inotropes or digoxin. Ideally, therapy should consist of a diuretic plus vasadilator (e.g., angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE] inhibitor or isosorbide dinitrate plus hydralazine), with or without digoxin. Prevention of further left ventricular dysfunction can be accomplished by, inhibiting neurohormonal processes and ventricular remodeling that occur in heart failure using ACE inhibitors, nitrates and hydralazine, or β blockers. Significant therapeutic advances have been made with respect to symptom relief, hospitalizations, and mortality reduction in patients with congestive heart failure. Despite these advances, patient morbidity and mortality remain high and underscore the necessity for optimal use of existing therapies along with research directed at achieving further improvements in both quality of life and life expectancy.
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