By Kathryn Cavanaugh, MSN, RN
Manager Health Promotions, Little Company of Mary Hospital
The term “heart failure” can be very daunting when your doctor tells you that you have this significant health challenge. Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a very common medical condition that varies widely from person to person and can be managed effectively with medications and lifestyle changes. Simply put, heart failure occurs when the heart muscle becomes unable to pump blood to the lungs where it picks up oxygen to carry to other muscles and systems of the body. Indications of CHF include tiredness, dizziness, swelling of the legs and ankles (edema) with sudden weight gain over a period of days, shortness of breath and cough due to a build-up of fluid in the lungs. Common causes of CHF include high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary artery disease. The good news is that the problem develops gradually and can be managed with medications and lifestyle changes. Here are a few tips to help you accomplish that goal.
Watch your salt intake. This is very effective in lowering blood pressure and helping to eliminate fluid from the body. High blood pressure is a serious risk for developing heart failure.
Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying around that extra weight puts a strain on your heart. Losing as little as 10% of your body weight can make a huge difference on the overall health of your cardiovascular system.
Follow a healthy heart diet. Incorporate healthy fats in your diet, such as plant oils (i.e. olive oil) and omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. fish) and load up on whole grains, vegetables and fruits. One thing to keep in mind is that you may need to restrict your fluids to less than 1.5 liters per day. This is about five 8-ounce servings.
Keep track of your body. Weigh yourself and take your blood pressure every day. If you gain more than three to five pounds in a matter of days or notice your blood pressure creeping up, call your doctor.
Take your medications. Your doctor will work closely with you to determine the medications that work best for you. Take medications as prescribed. If you have concerns about the medications, talk with your doctor before you make any changes.
Little Company of Mary Hospital has a Heart Failure Clinic that works with you and your doctor to keep you out of the hospital and managing your symptoms successfully at home. For more information, call 708–229–4278
Top November Programs
Little Company of Mary Hospital, 2800 W. 95th St. Registration: 708–423–5774
CHEER (Choices, Humor, Enhancement, Education, Renewal) “Relax and Regroup Singing Crystal Bowls,” Wed., Nov. 13, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Free.
Calcium Scoring Screening, noninvasive CT scan of the heart to calculate risk of developing coronary artery disease by measuring the amount of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries, Thurs., Nov. 14. Fee: $99.
Wake-Up Call Screening to assess risk for heart disease and stroke, Sat., Nov. 16. Includes healthy heart labs, ultrasound screening of abdominal aorta and carotid arteries, peripheral vascular screening, heart rhythm screening for atrial fibrillation, kidney health screening and personalized visit with wellness nurse educator. Payment required at time of registration. Fee: $160.
Skin Cancer Screening, ten–minute screening for one area of concern with Sonya Kenkare, M.D., board certified dermatologist, Thurs., Nov. 21. Free.