Ask The Experts: What Is Stiff Heart Syndrome? (Video)
Vijay Rao, MD, PhD, FACC, FASE, FHFSA, a clinical cardiologist at Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians, is co-director of the heart failure program and cardio-oncology at Franciscan Health Indianapolis. He answers your questions and shares expert insight on stiff heart syndrome.
Q: What Is Stiff Heart Syndrome?
A: A stiff heart occurs when the heart muscle thickens in response to high blood pressure. While initially this thickening helps increase pump function to maintain blood flow to the body, eventually, the pump starts to stiffen and pressure starts to build up in the heart leading to shortness of breath and fluid retention both in the lungs and in the legs. This is referred to as congestive heart failure.
This is a serious medical condition as once congestive heart failure occurs, life expectancy is greatly reduced. As a result, we need to be aggressive about prevention.
Q: What Are Symptoms Of Stiff Heart Syndrome?
A: Stiff heart syndrome, also known as heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, results in several notable symptoms including:
- Reduced exercise ability
- Palpitations (sensation of feeling heartbeat)
- Shortness of breath with activity
- Swelling of the abdomen, legs, ankles, or other part of the body
- Trouble breathing while lying flat
Q: How Can I Prevent Stiff Heart Syndrome?
A: One the key ways to prevent stiff heart syndrome is knowing your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is running high, it is important to lower it with lower salt diets, weight loss, and reduction of alcohol consumption. If this does not lower your blood pressure enough, it is important to work with you doctor to start medication(s) that have been proven to lower blood pressure.
High blood pressure is often referred to as the "silent killer" as many people have no symptoms until it is too late. If you have a history of high blood pressure, see your primary care doctor, continue to monitor your blood pressure, and be compliant with your medications.