Apr 22
mabuckner , Posted on SUPPORT NETWORK Blog

Low EF. Now what?

In December 2016 I noted an unusual weakness doing normal tasks. One night I got out of bed and passed out briefly. Otherwise I was in good health. I am 59 and recently retired. I went to my doctor to see why I had passed out. He suggested some basic heart tests. Those tests (ECHO) indicated a low EF of about 15. I was admitted to the hospital a couple of days later for a heart cath and observation.  The heart cath showed no blockages with a EF of 35-40.  I was told the likely cause of low EF was a heart virus. I was put on Coreg. 6 weeks later I had a repeat ECHO. It was again about 15. A couple of weeks ago I had a third ECHO. It was still low, about 20. I feel some better but not normal. I am some weaker than I used to be. I can walk 30 minutes on treadmill with no problem. I am on low sodium diet. I have lost a few pounds since this all started. I do feel more anxious. Next week I see a electrophysiologist to consider implanting a defribulator.

As most others in this support group I have been shocked with the unexpected change in my health. I have always been active, thin, never smoked. Now I am trying to figure out exactly where I am and how to maximize my health and have a positive attitude. 

A couple a of questions for any of you:
1.  Have any of you seen a large difference in EF measurement results between ECHO and heart cath?  Any thoughts on why the difference and which is more accurate?
2. Anyone seen their EF improve over time?  If so how much over how long?  

I wish you you all well. I would appreciate any feedback. 

  • Bluestarmom
    Hi Mike, A couple of years ago I was admitted to the cardiac care unit by my primary after he took an ekg. The next day I had a heart cath which had shocking results since I had no "typical" symptoms of heart problems. I had 5 blockages - 3 were 100%, a 90% , and a 70%. Onlly 2 arteries were stent eligible, and I was not eligible for bypass. The surgeon was amazed that I was even alive, let alone the fact that I had not had any heart attacks....but he said I was a walking time bomb. My EF was about 50 - just a little below normal. I guess I don't have much in common with your situation except that we are blessed by not having heart attacks. I hope that your doctors watch you closely and find that you are okay. I try not to overdo it but exercise is important to me. I took some time off from the treadmill after having major back surgery but am back to working my way up to 20 minutes a day and getting a good heart rate going....but not too high. I am a 70 old wife, mom, and grandma. Life is precious - and I try to treat it that way. Make sure you are an advocate for your own health. Good luck and God bless you.
  • cardio myopathy
    cardio myopathy,
    Hi Mike! I have a similar condition. In 2010 an echocardiogram showed an EF of 25 and it should, as you know be about 55. A cardiac catheterization showed no blockages, there was no sign that I have ever had a heart attack. My cardiologist gave me a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy,an enlarged heart that is too weak to operate properly. He placed me on an ace inhibitor, a beta blocker and a blood thinner. He also implanted an ICD (defibrilator and pace maker) "just to be safe". He has since changed my diagnosis to congestive heart failure, I'm not sure why or what the difference is. If I get plenty of rest, go to the gym regularly for moderate exercise and watch my weight I feel pretty good most of the time. I tire easily and get out of breath sometimes but mostly I can do all the things I enjoy doing but in moderation. To answer your second question, yes my EF did improve to 30 according to my most recent echo. My cardiologist said he wasn't sure how significant this was but as long as it's not getting worse it's good news. Good luck, Mike, and remember your condition can be managed!
  • curtiswood18atyahoo.com
    You did not mention if you are taking statins of some sort to lower cholesterol. I had similar feelings from the statins so that my cardiologist had me stop taking them.
  • jsorlean
    I am 62 years old. I had a heart attack in September of 2015. Before the Heart Attack my EF was 55. Now it is 38. I have not been able to increase it and I have been exercising more than I ever have. My cardiologist says I am not my EF. He has a patient that has a lower score than me and runs marathons. I too am on a low sodium diet. I follow a diet that is referred to as a "whole food, plant-based diet". The documentary, "Forks Over Knives" explains it. It is also laid out in the book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. I lost 30 lbs, 4 inches in my waist and combined with medicine my cholesterol levels are very low.
  • purple heart
    purple heart,
    First you are so lucky your cardiologist did an echo! I too was passing out and feeling weak and went to a bad cardiologist who only did a tilt table test which I past out! He just told me to come back later! So I made an appointment with the Cardiologist I'm with now. The night before My first appointment I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at 34 years young! I went to 3 hospitals and stayed in the last one for 3 months! My EF was so low like 15 ! It is now up to 45 -50 17 years later!!!! I still have cardiomyopathy , an enlarged heart! So do NOT give up!!!! We are survivors and we are strong! You CAN improve your EF by exersice, staying positive , going to all your many dr appointment and taking your medicine! I am also on a generic coreg! It is a good drug to be on!!! Second if you need get an ICD don't be afraid to get one! I was very afraid and almost said no!!! Lucky for me my dr told me all about it and helped me each step of the way! I'm on my 4th one! My first and second both fired a total of 4 times! 3 I fainted before it fired but the 4 time I felt it!!! With time the fear fades and you will be able to get on to a new life! I wish you all the best!!! Just do NOT give up hope in raising you EF ! I did it and you will too!
  • katedale
    My husband had a TIA in July 2016. He is 46. He had an abnormal ekg so they did an echo. His ef was 10%. They did a cath which showed and ef of 20% with no blockage. I was told the echo has the more accurate ef. He was put on Xarelto for blood clots, losartan, metoprolol, and spironolactane for his heart. It was recommended he have a defibrillator put in but he chose to wait-and-see. As of last month his ef is 30-35%. At the advice of his doctor, our kids had an echo done. Our daughter who is 23 was found to have an ef of 35% last September. Her ef is now 45-50%. She is on lisonopril, metoprolol and spironolactane. Through genetic testing that my husband had done to help our daughter, it was found that he has a rare genetic disease of left ventricular noncompaction cardiomyopathy which his echo confirmed. This can cause blood clots to form in the heart which explains his TIA.
  • mingo1
    Heart attack in 1993. A widow maker that could not be fixed and no other blockages. ICD/Pacemaker the same year and sic change outs. 28% EF at that time and it has stayed there all this time. A few shocks and some ablations have really helped the AFIB. BUT, I do not let the EF worry me and do most everything. So get tired somewhat easier, but age is creeping in! Take the meds, eat well and do some exercise and you will be fine.
  • martinezruben20
    15 months ago I had a massive heart attack while out of the country. I survived thank God but my EF dropped to about 20-25 and was hospitalized for a possible transplant. I did not have it and a slow recovery with diet, therapy and meds have me on my feet and once again enjoying a pretty normal life. I am working again but only 3-4 hrs a day. If you follow your docs recomm. and keep a one day at a time attitude you should see improvement. Pray to your God and accept all the help is offered you...those may.be angels. The anxiety can take a while to diminish but it will. Have faith and believe that you will heal slowly. Fight the good fight.
  • Inspired2be
    Hi Mike I know what a shock it is at first It can improve The meds may offer side effects that can be confused with HF symptoms Go to Cardiac Rehab ask your Dr for a referral stop eating any and all fast food and stop eating out for at least 6 months Sodium is in everything and it makes our condition worse.Take your medication on time monitor your blood pressure daily .I got diagnosed with a EF of 32 then it went down to 27 Now after almost a year I'm at 39% and have made it through the side effects and the depression I feel good most of the time and I'm 30lbs lighter and I'm a pretty good cook! I'm grateful and I'm lucky I have a bi ventricular pacemaker which is doing its job If my EF didn't improve I would be getting a defb Rest when you feel it Read, Go back to school online, and most importantly don't give up This too shall pass I will keep you in my prayer
  • Tinman
    I totally understand your anxiety. I developed an EF of about 15 in my mid 20s. I remember at first not being able to do much and wondering if this would be my life. I was also active, thin, and had never smoked. After my diagnosis, I went to cardiac rehab and worked out 5 days a week. As time went on, I skied and really lived my life even with a low EF. Try not to focus on the number but on your function. I think your biggest challenge will be figuring out what is causing your low EF so it can be taken care of. I had my first defibrillator put in just over 12 years ago. I remember being terrified. It was fairly simple and the reassurance it gave us was great. Please feel free to reach out if you have any more specific questions.
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