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What Is Systolic Dysfunction?

The anatomy of a heart attack. Systolic dysfunction is often caused by a heart attack.
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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 17 April 2014
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Systolic dysfunction is a form of heart failure that occurs when the heart can no longer pump an adequate amount of blood to the body's organs and tissues. Though the condition has a number of symptoms, the most common symptom and cause is myocardial infarctionheart attack. For patients whose systolic dysfunction develops over time, doctors can make a diagnosis using one of many procedures or tests. After diagnosis, a patient and his or her doctor will decide on a treatment method and lifestyle changes that best fit with the condition's severity and progression.

After myocardial infarction, doctors will test for systolic dysfunction during a patient's hospital stay and follow up physicals. Where systolic dysfunction develops over time, the symptoms can be so mild that a patient, usually elderly, might not recognize that he or she has a heart condition. These symptoms include fatigue, confusion and disorientation. These symptoms are present with many types of conditions, so systolic dysfunction usually is not diagnosed until it has progressed into an advanced stage.

Many options exist to diagnose systolic dysfunction. Electrocardiography (ECG) is the most common and reliable method. A doctor is able to measure heart function and gauge whether the heart is ejecting an adequate amount of blood with every pump. The doctor most likely will be able to determine the cause of the dysfunction at the same time. In some cases, though, a biopsy of heart tissue is necessary to check for bacterial infection.

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Only after a doctor has made a diagnosis, determined the cause and measured the progression of the systolic dysfunction can the patient choose an appropriate treatment option. Sometimes surgery is involved if the cause is a congenital heart defect. Multiple courses of antibiotics are necessary for those whose dysfunction is caused by an infection. Even if treatment stops the progression of systolic dysfunction, heart damage is permanent in most cases. Lifestyle changes are necessary to ensure a longer, higher-quality life.

For those whose systolic dysfunction is caused by a heart attack, a change is diet is essential for better health. Reducing salt intake and eating a low-fat, fiber-rich diet will help a patient lose weight and lower blood pressure. Quitting smoking and severely reducing alcohol intake is an absolute necessity. A doctor might suggest this course even if the dysfunction has a different cause, because lifestyle changes allow certain heart medications to act much more effectively.

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Discuss this Article

bear78
Post 3

I have trouble remembering the difference between systolic and diastolic but I think I finally got it. Systolic means pumping blood away from the heart and diastolic means the heart filling itself with blood. Right?

burcinc
Post 2

@burcidi-- Yes, beta blockers do prevent and slow down the progression of systolic dysfunction. The fact that this is the only treatment required is a good thing because beta blockers are not very effective in advanced stages of heart failure.

Your grandmother must have been put on a special diet as well. It's especially important for those with systolic dysfunction to stay away from salt.

By the way, not everyone who experiences minor systolic dysfunction will develop full heart failure. Especially, if the cause is an infection, the heart will be able to return to normal after treatment and rest. You might want to ask about the specific cause of your grandmother's condition for this reason.

burcidi
Post 1

I just found out from parents that my grandmother has the beginnings of systolic dysfunction. So she doesn't have systolic heart failure yet, but something is wrong with her systolic function. The doctors have given her beta blocker medications to prevent it from advancing further.

I have no knowledge of medicine but this sounds very serious. Can medications really prevent systolic dysfunction from worsening? I feel like something more should be done about it.

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