We all know about cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes and the negative effects they can have on your health. But on your next visit to the doctor, there's another number you should be asking about: ejection fraction. In particular, survivors of a heart attack should know about this often ignored heart statistic.
Measuring your ejection fraction is a simple, painless way for a doctor to monitor the your heart’s health following a heart attack. And new research shows that knowing your ejection fraction could help you seek treatment you may otherwise have ignored.
|See Ejection Fraction
|Take a closer look at your heart's preformance after a heart attack.
What Is It?
Ejection fraction is the percentage of blood pumped from your large heart chamber (ventricle) with each heartbeat.
Typically, one beat clears just more than half the blood from that chamber.
Each ventricle has an ejection fraction. However, heart failure usually occurs on the left side of the heart. Doctors will measure the left ventricle ejection fraction (LVEF) to determine how well the heart is doing. Ejection fraction, or EF, usually refers to LVEF, while doctors usually specify right ventricle ejection fraction if they are referring to the less common measurement.
What should my ejection fraction be?
Normal ejection fraction is between 55-75. A measurement under 40 may be evidence of heart failure or cardiomyopathy. An EF between 40 and 55 indicates damage, perhaps from a previous heart attack, but it may not indicate heart failure. In severe cases, EF can drop below 5 percent. EF higher than 75 percent could indicate a heart condition like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
A normal ejection fraction reading does not mean your heart is not damaged. If the heart failure is in the atria rather than the ventricles, EF may register as normal. LVEF may be normal if the failure is in the right ventricle. In addition, some conditions, including cardiomyopathy, do not always lower a patient’s EF.
How is EF measured?
Some diagnostic procedures can be time consuming, expensive and invasive. EF, however, is usually tested with an echocardiogram, a painless, uninvasive test that uses ultrasound waves to take pictures of your heart. An echocardiogram can be performed right in your doctor's office. EF can also be measured in conjunction with other tests, including MUGA scan, CAT scan, cardiac catheterization, stress test or nuclear stress test.
What is the treatment for a low ejection fraction?
Low EF often cannot be cured. Treatment typically focuses on reducing symptoms and keeping the condition from getting worse. This may include changes in diet and exercise, medications, surgical procedures and use of devices like implantable defibrillators.