Congestive heart failure is a condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently. It is most common in people over 65, and over five million United States residents have this chronic condition. Read on to find out about the prevention and treatment of heart failure to learn more about this serious disease.
Patients with congestive heart failure aren’t able to pump blood out of their hearts as quickly as it returns from the rest of the body. The problem can be mechanical, meaning that there is a physical limitation to how much the heart can fill with blood, or it can be caused by a progressive weakening of the heart muscle. Either way, the heart becomes backed up with blood and it has a harder time pumping oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, which can cause additional health problems.
Without treatment, heart failure worsens over time as the body tries to compensate. Some patients’ hearts beat faster, and the heart often enlarges slightly to make room for holding extra blood. These compensation measures are temporary, though. In the long run, heart failure leads to lower blood circulation, which can lead to kidney failure and cause patients’ lungs to fill with fluid. Once a patient has congestive heart failure, his or her condition will only get worse without targeted lifestyle changes or medical treatment.
There is no definitive cure for heart failure, though it can be treated. Preventing the condition, to begin with, is a much better approach, especially for high-risk patients with a family history of heart failure. Most preventative treatments for heart failure involve making lifestyle changes. Older patients at risk of developing heart failure should:
Smoking cigarettes or using illegal drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, or heroin can all place an undue strain on people’s hearts. They increase blood pressure and heart rates, and some can harden users’ arteries. In other words, they increase the risk of developing heart failure. Now is the time to quit.
Most doctors recommend that anyone at risk of developing heart failure start following a heart-healthy diet. Patients should eat plenty of fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats, all of which support heart health. They should avoid processed sugar and meats. Those who find themselves overwhelmed by dietary choices may want to consult a nutritionist familiar with cardiac diets.
People, men especially, who sit for most of the day are at increased risk of developing heart failure, so stay active. It’s always a good time for developing a new exercise routine. Experts recommend getting at least 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise per week, but patients who already have heart failure should consult their doctors before starting new exercise routines.
In most cases, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise is enough to manage weight. Patients at risk for developing heart disease should aim for BMIs between 18.5 and 24.9. Those having trouble losing weight or keeping it off should consult their doctors.
Stress raises people’s blood pressure, which can increase their risk of developing heart disease. Managing stress isn’t easy, so don’t be afraid to hire a counselor. Some people also find that yoga and meditation help them stay more even-keeled.
Most importantly, patients with other forms of heart disease or related conditions like sleep apnea that can raise their risks should monitor their cardiovascular health carefully. Other heart problems and conditions that affect the cardiovascular system can increase a patient’s chances of developing heart failure.
While there is no cure for heart failure, congestive heart failure treatment can help to relieve symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Every person is different, and so is every treatment plan. The first course of action is to make the lifestyle changes listed above.
Doctors may also recommend cutting back on salt, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and monitoring fluids. If a patient’s heart failure continues to progress despite positive lifestyle changes, the doctor may recommend medication therapy or surgery.
There are multiple classes of medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of heart failure, which can improve patients’ lives and slow the progression of the disease. They include:
Finding the right medication requires identifying the patient’s risk factors and what underlying problems are causing the heart failure.
Surgical procedures are typically reserved for severe cases. Common surgical interventions include heart valve replacement, artery bypass, and the placement of biventricular pacemakers or cardioverter-defibrillators. In the most severe cases, a heart transplant may be recommended.
The key to reducing the progression of heart failure is careful monitoring of the patient’s symptoms and overall health. Keep track of weight, blood pressure, and other vital signs and go to the doctor for lab work as recommended. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor questions about what to expect during different stages of the disease.
It’s also important to keep a positive attitude. It’s common for patients recently diagnosed with heart failure to develop problems with anxiety and depression, which can increase stress levels and decrease the effectiveness of lifestyle and medication interventions. Most patients can benefit from either individual or group therapy to manage mental health conditions resulting from heart failure diagnosis.
Those at risk for heart failure should schedule consultations with a cardiology specialist. The experts at Carolina Cardiology Associates have years of education and experience and access to the latest technological advances. Browse their website to learn about the clinic or call (803) 324-5135 to schedule an appointment for an initial evaluation.
The experienced physicians at Carolina Cardiology Associates are committed to the health of every patient who walks through our doors. We understand the challenges of cardiovascular disease and will work with you to provide treatment, education, and a plan for the future to help you live your healthiest life.