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Heart Failure

What Is Heart Failure

Heart Failure is a progressive condition in which the heart’s muscle becomes weaker and may lose its ability to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs. Although there is no way to completely heal a failing heart, there are many things a person with hear failure can do to improve their condition and live a productive life.

What Are the Causes of Heart Failure?

An individual develops heart failure after the heart is damaged from diseases or injuries such as:

  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Muscle Disorder (Cardiomyopathy)
  • Heart Valve Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Viruses
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Some Medications Used to Treat Cancer
  • Illegal Drugs Such as Cocaine
  • Genetics

What Are the Symptoms of Heart Failure?

You may have some or all of these symptoms

  • Feeling Extra Tired
  • Shortness of Breath with Exertion or When Lying Flat in Bed
  • Frequent dry, hacking cough, especially when lying flat
  • Swollen ankles, legs, belly, and/or lower back
  • Weight gain

Causes of Symptoms?

When a heart pumps with less power and force than normal, it cannot pump enough blood to organs and muscles. As a result, your body cannot do as much. Blood and fluids may collect or pool in the lungs. This can cause breathing problems when you lie down. Fluids can also collect in other parts of the body, swelling of the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen.

How is Heart Failure Diagnosed?

Heart Failure is diagnosed by history and physical examination as well as tests such as: chest x-ray, echocardiogram, and nuclear scan.

How is Heart Failure Treated?

There are many medications that can help control heart failure. Some that your physician may prescribe for you include:

  • Ace Inhibitors: These drugs work by helping to stop the body from reacting to certain hormones that cause negative effects on the heart and blood flow. Ace Inhibitors are considered vasodilators because they dilate or widen blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.
  • Beta-Blockers: These drugs help keep the heart from beating faster to make up for its weak pumping action. They allow the heart to respond to stimulation with a slower heart rate, and they also help to lower blood pressure.
  • Digoxin: Helps the heart pump more strongly and can help control the heart rhythm.
  • Diuretics: Also called water pills, which will increase the amount of urine the body produces. This helps to eliminate extra fluids and sodium so there is less fluid that collects in the lungs and feet.

What Can I Do to Help Manage My Heart Failure?

There are a few things that you can do to manage your heart failure. Vy changing your lifecycle and taking medications that your doctor orders can make a major difference in your health.

  • Weigh yourself daily: Extra weight may mean that you are holding on to fluid. Even a small weight gain can be a sign that your heart is working harder. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue may get worse. Call us if you gain more than 2 pounds in one day or if you gain 5 pounds in one week.
  • Lower the amounts of salt in your diet: Eating salt makes the body retain water. This causes fluid to build up and worsen heart failure.
    • Watch for the hidden amounts of sodium in food.
    • Read food labels
    • Take the salt shaker off the table
    • Use other seasonings that do not contain salt or sodium
    • Avoid ready-to-eat foods such as canned soup, processed meats, cheeses, frozen dinner as they contain sodium
    • While eating at restaurants, ask that food be cooked without added salt
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet: Eating well will help you maintain a healthy weight, add flavor to a salt restricted diet, and help you to feel better overall
  • Lose weight if you are overweight: Extra pounds put a strain on your already overworked heart
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity will make your muscles stronger so you feel better and can do your daily tasks without tiring so easily
    • Allow for rest periods during the day and space out activities
    • Ask your cardiologist for instructions about exercise
    • Stop and rest if you feel tired or short of breath
    • Ask your cardiologist for instructions about an exercise/cardiac rehabilitation program
    • Call Health & Fitness Institute at the Tully Health Center (203) 325-7900 for more information

  • Stop smoking: Smoking increases blood pressure and makes it harder to exercise. It also makes the blood more likely to clot, putting smokers at greater risk for heart attacks
  • Avoid alcohol: Moderate drinking (one or two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women) does not appear to harm most people. Too much alcohol may lead to high blood pressure and heart failure

Additional Important Points Regarding Medications:

  • Always carry a complete list of medications with you
  • Take your pills the same time every day
  • Don’t run out of your medication – refill medicines promptly
  • Carry extra medications and prescriptions with you when you travel – keep medications in your carry on luggage
  • Bring medications to your doctor’s office visits
  • Tell your cardiologist if you have any side effects from the medications you are taking
  • Tell your cardiologist if another doctor prescribes medicine for you
  • If you are taking any herbal products let us know


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