Congestive Heart Failure
Information - Congestive Heart Failure
What is Heart Failure?
The heart’s role is to pump blood and nutrients through your circulatory system, in order to support organ function. The heart is a muscle, and if it’s no longer able to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs, chronic or acute heart failure occurs.
Causes/Risk Factors of Heart Failure
Heart failure is a result of impairment of the heart muscle or the valves. There are a number of diseases that can lead to heart failure:
- Coronary artery disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Cardiomyopathy or Myocarditis (heart muscle diseases)
- Heart valve problems
- Congenital heart problems
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Heart Failure Symptoms
The symptoms of heart failure vary, whether its onset is sudden or gradual. Chronic heart failure symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath when lying down or during physical activity
- Swelling in the abdomen or legs
- Shortness of breath and coughing at night
- Unexplained weight gain
Sudden heart failure symptoms include all of the above symptoms and:
- Chest pain (if caused by acute infarction)
There are also some factors that can bring on or worsen heart failure symptoms:
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Stopping/starting certain medications
- Consuming lots of liquids or salty foods
Heart Failure Diagnosis
If you’re experiencing heart failure symptoms, the doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you detailed questions (or make you fill out a questionnaire). If your physician suspects heart failure, he or she will order one or more tests:
- Blood tests
- Chest x-ray
Heart Failure Treatment
The first heart failure treatment is medication, in order to decrease the heart’s workload and eliminate accumulated fluids from the legs and lungs. If heart failure is a result of diabetes or high blood pressure, you may also need medication to control the cause. If your heart failure is caused by a heart valve problem, you may require cardiothoracic surgery.
Managing Heart Failure
There are lifestyle changes you can make to effectively manage heart failure, including:
- Avoiding sodium
- Not drinking excessive liquids
- Weighing yourself each day to monitor fluid retention
- Taking medications as prescribed and working with your pharmacist to prevent drug interactions with other medications you’re taking
For more information on heart failure, visit HealthChoicesFirst.com.
Print this Action Plan and check off items that you want to discuss with your healthcare provider
Talk to family physician about scheduling an appointment with a cardiologist to perform a physical exam and order diagnostic tests to diagnose CHF.
Review medication plan with family physician and/or cardiologist.
Discuss with healthcare professional whether more serious interventions such as an angioplasty will be recommened.
Make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to assess nutrient needs for CHF.
To help reduce fluid retention, assess dietary intake of sodium to ensure a low sodium intake of 2000mg/day or less daily.