Primary care physicians play a significant role in managing heart failure (HF), with the goals of reducing mortality, avoiding hospitalization, and improving patients’ quality of life. Most HF-related hospitalizations and deaths occur in patients with New York Heart Association functional class II or III, many of whom are perceived to have stable disease, which often progresses without clinical symptoms due to underlying deleterious effects of neurohormonal imbalance and endothelial dysfunction. Management includes lifestyle changes and stepped pharmacological therapy directed at the four stages of HF, with aggressive uptitration of therapies, including beta-blockers and inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Recently, two new HF treatments have become available in clinical practice. Ivabradine was approved to reduce the risk of hospitalization for HF in patients with stable, symptomatic HF. Additionally, the angiotensin receptor–neprilysin inhibitor (ARNI), sacubitril/valsartan, was found to be significantly superior to enalapril in reducing risks of cardiovascular death and HF-related hospitalization. The respective 2016 and 2017 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association/Heart Failure Society of America clinical practice guideline updates recommend that patients taking angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor/angiotensin receptor blocker therapy be switched to ARNI therapy to further reduce morbidity and mortality. For HF management to be maximally effective, physicians must be knowledgeable about the risks and benefits of treatments and stay engaged with patients to identify signs of disease progression. This article provides an overview of the progressive nature of HF in apparently stable patients and describes areas for treatment improvement that may help to optimize patient care.
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- Journal Article