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Congestive heart failure (CHF), or heart failure, is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to the body's other organs. This can result from:
The "failing" heart keeps working, but not as efficiently as it should. People with heart failure cannot over-exert themselves because they become short of breath and tired.
As blood flow out of the heart slows, blood returning to the heart through the veins backs up, causing congestion in the tissues. Swelling (edema) often results. Most often there's swelling in the legs and ankles, but it can happen in other parts of the body, too. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing, causing shortness of breath, especially when a person is lying down.
Heart Failure usually develops slowly following injury to the heart. Damage to the heart muscle may be caused by coronary artery disease, heart attack, long-term high blood pressure, diabetes, heart valve disease, infection of the heart muscle, viruses or lung problems.
The heart muscle becomes weakened and must work harder to keep blood flowing through the body. The name of this condition does not mean that your heart has suddenly stopped working.
Taking Control can stabilize and perhaps reduce your symptoms, can help you live longer and keep you out of the hospital.
WakeMed Heart & Vascular features a comprehensive Congestive Heart Failure Program designed to help patients self-manage this chronic disease. Managing Congestive Heart Failure results in a better quality of life.
If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, there are many things you can do to help yourself. It is possible to feel well and lead a normal life by taking control of your heart failure by doing the following.
Click on each item to expand the information.
Weigh each morning after using the bathroom. Keep a weight diary by writing your weight down each morning. If you gain two pounds overnight or three to five pounds in a week, notify your doctor.
Heart failure causes the body to hold onto salt/sodium, which causes extra fluid to build up in your body. This fluid makes your heart work harder and causes the symptoms of heart failure. It is recommended that a person with Heart Failure have not more than 2000 mg of sodium a day. Below are tips for you to stay within the recommended amount. When reading food labels, check both the amount of salt/sodium and the serving size. Avoid foods that have more than 350 mg of sodium per serving.
Drinking too much fluid can cause fluid build-up in the body. For most people who have heart failure, fluid intake should be limited to 11⁄2 to 2 quarts a day. Your doctor will tell you how much fluid you should drink.
Your doctor may prescribe a combination of medicines to treat your heart failure. These medications may include pills to reduce fluid build-up and blood pressure reduction, and medicine to improve the way your heart works.
Staying active can help decrease your symptoms, make you feel better and improve your sense of well-being. Ask your doctor about activities appropriate for you.
Regular check-ups with your doctor will help you keep your heart failure under control.
Alcohol has a direct effect on the heart muscle. It decreases the strength of the heart’s contraction in an already weakened heart.
Cigarette smoking can damage and weaken the heart. You should avoid all forms of tobacco, including second-hand smoke.
There are some prescription and over-the counter medicines that should be avoided or taken with caution. These drugs can make heart failure symptoms worse by interacting with medicines or causing you to retain fluid. They include nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) including Ibuprofen (Motrin, Naproxen (Aleve) and Ketoprofen.
Herbal medicines are drugs. Always check with your doctor or a pharmacist before using these.
Taking control of your heart failure is the key to living more actively with a better quality of life. Follow the treatment plan prescribed for you. Your success depends on an active partnership between you, your doctor and nurse.
If you have any of these symptoms:
The treatment of Congestive Heart Failure is more than providing physical relief. It's about managing a chronic disease. That includes monitoring the patient's condition and providing education about the disease, as well as giving them emotional support. WakeMed's CHF program, started in 1999, is designed to work in conjunction with the patient's primary care physician and cardiologist.
When patients enroll in the CHF Program, a cardiovascular educator provides them with educational materials, including a booklet about heart failure, a weight diary, a sodium checkbook and medication cards for recording information about their medicines.
These tools provide valuable information to health care providers on the daily condition of the CHF patient. Even after a patient has been diagnosed with CHF, hospital readmissions frequently occur because of not knowing how to manage one's lifestyle while suffering from the condition. It is the program's goal to eliminate that problem.
A key component of the WakeMed CHF program is follow-up care after a patient goes home from the hospital called 'telemanagement.' Patients receive the first telephone call from a CHF educator 48 hours after discharge. Subsequent calls on a weekly basis continues for six weeks. The educators ask patients a number of probing questions about weight management, blood pressure, medications, and general well-being.
The CHF educators are rapid responders and listen closely for signs that a patient's condition may be declining. If they hear a 'red flag,' they try to resolve it quickly under the supervision of the physician before the patient has to be readmitted to the hospital.
For more information about the WakeMed Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Program, please contact Marian Uy, RN, CHF Program Manager, at 919-350-5732.
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