As you can easily imagine, there are so many things that can be said about congestive heart failure. We cannot talk about everything in just one article but we can highlight the really important things that you have to be aware of.
In USA alone we have over 5 million people affected by heart failure with over 600,000 new cases added every year. The number of patients is growing so we need to all be informed.
Heart Failure – What Is It?
Most people think that heart failure is synonymous to a heart that stopped. That is not the case. Heart failure basically means that the pumping power of the heart is not as strong as it should be. This causes a chain reaction that is highly damaging to many other organs since blood cannot reach every area where it is needed.
Heart Failure Causes
The most common conditions that cause heart muscle damage include:
- Heart attacks
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart overworking conditions
Heart Failure Symptoms
It is possible that you do not have symptoms or that they are mild to severe. All the symptoms can appear or disappear and the most common ones include:
- Irregular or rapid heartbeats
- Water and fluid retention
- Congested lungs
- Weakness, Fatigue And Dizziness
Heart Failure Types
- Systolic dysfunction – also known as systolic heart failure
- Diastolic dysfunction – also known as diastolic heart failure
Only a doctor can determine if you suffer from heart failure. Based on a complete physical exam, your medical history and the symptoms that you have, the doctor will order different possible tests so that he can assess the problem. The most common tests performed for diagnosing heart failure are:
- Blood tests (especially BNP blood test)
- Chest X-rays
- EF (Ejection Fraction)
- ECG or EKG
- Stress Test
- Cardiac Catheterization
Heart Failure Treatment
Different treatment options are available right now. In most situations you would need to properly control your lifestyle and take various medications. Monitoring is necessary during the initial treatment stages. As conditions progress, doctors will give you different treatment options that are beneficial for you.
The main heart failure treatment goal is to decrease the possibility that the disease will progress. Symptoms are lessened and life quality is improved. However, it is important that you work with your doctor since monitoring is necessary. This is especially true if you underwent surgery. In this case you will need to go through strict lifestyle changes that range from exercising after the surgery to diet modifications. Medication is almost always necessary, at least for preventive measures.
Preventing The Worsening Of Heart Failure
Since prevention stands out as the most important thing with heart failure, we will stay focused on this section and the next one, which is related. Preventing heart failure from getting worse includes:
- Lowering blood pressure – Blood vessels will tighten or constrict because of hormones being released. The heart ends up working really hard to pump the required blood quantities through vessels that are constricted. Blood pressure needs to be controlled so that the heart can effectively pump, without added extra stress.
- Maintaining fluid balance – It is possible that the doctor asks you to record how many fluids you eat or drink. You may even be asked to record the number of times you visit the toilet. If you carry a lot of fluid inside the blood vessels, the heart needs to work harder. Limiting fluid intake to under two liters daily can decrease heart workload and prevent the recurring of several symptoms.
- Monitoring symptoms – You will need to check for fluid changes status by checking for swelling and weighting yourself on a daily basis. If you are faced with unexplained weight gain or swelling appears, contact your doctor.
- Limiting sodium intake – Sodium is found in different foods under the form of salt. We need to go through a diet that is low on sodium so that we can have less swelling, fluid retention and breathe a lot easier.
- Weight Loss – If necessary, you need to lose weight. You basically need to be as close as possible to the ideal weight. Diaries can be used to record weight. Whenever gaining over 3 pound in a day or 5 pound in a week, contact the doctor as medications may need to be adjusted.
- Always take prescribed medications – It should be obvious that this is necessary but there are still many that do not respect this. The drugs do help out a lot and your heart will be able to work with less stress when you take them.
- Monitor symptoms – If new ones appear or those that you usually have are worse, call the doctor. Never wait for them to become severe.
Preventing Further Heart Damage
Suffering from heart failure means that the heart is already damaged. In order to prevent more damage, you need to:
- Immediately stop smoking
- Control cholesterol level
- Control diabetes
- Control blood pressure
- Never drink alcohol again
- Go through all the recommended procedures as soon as possible
- Regularly exercise – as much as possible and under supervision
Improving Life Quality When Suffering From Heart Failure
Heart failure does not mean that you cannot live a great life. You can do many different things. Some that are usually recommended:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Do not overdo anything – this basically means that you have to be sure that you rest enough on a daily basis
- Regularly exercise
- Prevent all respiratory infections
- Get psychological or emotional support when it is necessary
- Take medications at all times
We should also say that it is always important that you schedule regular check-ups. Make sure that you respect everything that the doctor tells you. Most people do not like doctors but that is just foolish when suffering from heart failure. The doctor is your best friend when going through such hard times.