MANCHESTER (February 1, 2018) –
Article appeared in the Windsor Locks Journal, Windsor Journal and Bloomfield Messenger
Heart failure is essentially a weakness of the heart muscle and is most commonly known as congestive heart failure (CHF). Other terms for CHF that are used include pulmonary edema or fluid on the lungs. Congestive Heart Failure is a chronic disease that will never fully resolve but can be treated to ensure quality of life. Symptoms of CHF include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, swelling in the ankles, legs and/or abdomen, weakness and fatigue.
Congestive Heart Failure is treated with medication, procedures and surgery and can be managed by closely following medical advice and with changes in diet, exercise. Your physician is always the best person to speak with regarding your care.
Good medication management is critical. Keep an easy to read but accurate list of medications that is updated as needed with each doctor appointment. Take medications exactly when and how directed and keep your medication list where it can be shared with caregivers and with Paramedics in the case of an emergency.
In order to receive up to date advice and keep medications current and appropriate, you must go to all of your scheduled doctor’s appointments. A best practice is to schedule them with the help of hospital staff while you are still in the hospital. Locate reliable transportation. Bring a friend or family member who can be an advocate and another set of ears.
Aside from taking prescribed medications and keeping up with appointments, physicians often advise that patients with CHF closely monitor their weight as an indicator of excess fluid. Buy a reliable and easy to read bathroom scale, weigh yourself every day and write down your weight every day in a running log. Bring this weight chart to your doctor’s appointments.
The best time to weigh yourself is first thing in the morning after urinating but before eating or drinking, with the same amount of clothes on. Call your doctor is you gain more than three pounds in a day or five pounds in a week. Weight gain will often be present before any other symptom of CHF exacerbation.
Doctors also recommend certain changes to eating and drinking habits, exercising as directed and tolerated, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and eliminating tobacco use. Salt, also called Sodium, is found in most foods and persons with CHF should limit their salt intake. Doctors recommend less than 1500mg of salt each day. Although other diet changes will need to be made, stop shaking salt on your food as step one.
There are many steps to managing CHF for you or a loved one. It is a chronic disease process that requires constant attention and management but a good quality of life is within reach. Many great programs exist and healthcare providers are paying more attention to this disease process than ever. For more information always start with your doctor. For more resources and tools go to www.HeartTalk.org.