News | Published December 23, 2019 | Written by Jennifer Illig, PA-C, Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology

Help for those living with heart failure

Jennifer Illig, PA-C, Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.7 million Americans have heart failure. Chronic heart failure is a serious medical condition that requires treatment. At Mount Nittany Physician Group, our heart failure program was designed to meet the special needs of adult patients and families with this condition.

We offer accessible heart failure care by utilizing a team approach to individualized patient care, providing education on the disease process, as well as, medications and ways to manage heart failure. This includes diet and nutritional recommendations in combination with appropriate evidence-based medical therapy. Our goal is to ensure the highest quality of life and wellness for our heart failure patients

As manager of the heart failure program, I feel it is important to incorporate patients into the development of their care plan and to respect their wishes regarding the care they receive. Part of my role is to help eliminate any barriers to treatment that may exist. This can range from facilitating a smooth transition from hospitalization, to outpatient follow-up, to organizing increased provider availability when critical issues arise.

Heart failure risk factors and symptoms
Through the heart failure program, we aim to affect the course of the disease. Not only do we want to improve quality of life, we also want to increase length of life, provide care and support, educate on how to recognize symptoms and seek appropriate intervention, reduce symptoms, inhibit progression of the disease and manage risk factors.

Some of the most common risk factors for heart failure include:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes (Types 1 and 2)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Eating foods high in fat, cholesterol and sodium
  • Obesity

Symptoms of heart failure can often go unnoticed. Even on a heart failure treatment plan, patients should contact their doctor if they experience the following symptoms for the first time or if symptoms are worsening.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs and/or belly
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Nausea or lack of appetite

Who benefits from the program?
Those benefiting most from the Mount Nittany Physician Group heart failure program are patients who:

  • Are newly diagnosed with heart failure and interested in learning more about the disease and how best to manage it
  • Have chronic heart failure and require more intense management or are at risk of developing worsening symptoms
  • Have difficulty understanding and managing heart failure medications
  • Have been identified as being high risk for hospitalization or hospital readmission

If you believe that you or someone you know could benefit from Mount Nittany Physician Group’s heart failure program, you should speak with your cardiologist, primary care doctor or hospitalist team – if currently hospitalized – about a referral to the program.

For information on cardiology services at Mount Nittany Health, visit mountnittany.org/cardiology.

Jennifer Illig, PA-C, Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology, manages the heart failure program, which officially launched in January 2019. Illig earned her bachelor’s degree in health science and Master of Physician Assistant Science from Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. She is board certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. 

This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.