VCS Blog

Helpful Hints for Patients with Heart Failure

By: Andrea (Andi) C. Funai

A heart failure diagnosis can be difficult to live with. Controlling the risk factors and health conditions that lead to heart failure is often a struggle. But managing your heart failure diagnosis responsibly is vital to keeping your condition from getting worse. If you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure (or the conditions that may lead to it), here are some hints for staying in control of your heart health.

Types of Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure occurs when extra fluid builds up in the heart. This fluid is pulled into the lungs and pulled down by gravity, causing swelling in the abdomen and ankles. There are three basic types of heart failure:
● Left-sided heart failure is a condition where the either the left ventricle cannot pump enough blood into circulation (systolic failure), or where the ventricle cannot relax, preventing the heart from filling with enough blood (diastolic failure).
● Right-sided heart failure usually occurs as a result of left-sided heart failure. The failure of the left ventricle causes fluid to transfer back through the lungs, damaging the right side of the heart. The right side cannot pump properly, causing blood to back up in the veins.
● Stiff heart failure is a condition where the muscle of the heart becomes less flexible over time because they’re overworked. This causes the heart to lose flexibility, leading to the organ’s inability to properly relax.

Why You Should Have an Action Plan

Causes for congestive heart failure vary. Obesity, diabetes, and poor nutrition all contribute to the risk of heart failure. The condition could be genetic, caused by a virus, or developed after  pregnancy (postpartum cardiomyopathy). If you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure, it’s important to take the condition seriously and have an action plan. Failure to manage your condition properly can have serious consequences.

There are good reasons to have (and stick to) a treatment plan for your condition:
● Depending on the type of heart failure you have, the condition can be fatal.
● Successfully managing your heart failure can increase life expectancy.
● Left untreated, heart failure causes a decline in quality of life and everyday function.
Treatment Tips and Suggestions
The goal of heart failure treatment is to let you continue living your life and keep you out of the hospital. Your physician will likely prescribe medication and help you develop an action plan. The specific plan will depend on the cause of your heart failure, and the type of heart failure you’re experiencing.

If you have left-sided heart failure:
● Take your prescribed medication, including diuretics and blood pressure medication.
● Restrict your fluid intake if advised by your doctor.
● If you have high blood pressure, restrict your salt intake.
● Patients with lung issues like sleep apnea should use their CPAP.
● Weigh yourself daily — a weight gain of 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week can be a sign of fluid buildup in the body.

Treatment for right-sided heart failure is often more difficult, as it tends to develop over time, but the treatment methods are the same.

No one likes to think about the possibility of a heart failure diagnosis. But don’t take chances with your health. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, persistent coughing or wheezing, fatigue, buildup of excess fluids, or other symptoms you believe may be cause for concern, contact Virginia Cardiovascular Specialists to make an appointment and discuss a treatment plan.

Published June 14, 2019

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