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Keeping Congestive Heart Failure Under Control

Current statistics tell us 5.7 million Americans are living with heart failure. 670,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. With the aging of our Country’s population, the problem is poised to reach epidemic proportions. This will have a devastating effect on quality of life and longevity. Moreover, the cost of providing care for Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) rivals the largest hospital expenditures nationwide.

CHF can be caused by a variety of issues. High blood pressure or arterial disease are two of the most common. Because the heart is a muscle, such challenges to the circulatory system can cause the heart to basically do isometric exercises as it tries harder and harder to pump blood through the system. Because the body is designed as a self-correcting machine, the heart’s efforts to pump blood beyond these challenges causes the heart muscle to become larger and thicker. This creates even more obstacles to pumping blood. CHF can easily become both life-changing and life-threatening if not properly controlled. Patients develop symptoms like fatigue, dry or watery cough, swelling in the legs, and sometimes swelling in the abdomen. Generally, once shortness of breath begins, a need for medical intervention for resolution steps in.

The good news is the American Heart Association started a nationwide campaign to attack these problems. Launched in 2010, “Target: Heart Failure” provides healthcare professionals with comprehensive, content-rich resources, and tools to address these challenges. Nationwide, hospital systems are active participants in these efforts, reducing re-hospitalization rates through closer monitoring and detailed patient education.

Here are some simple suggestions. Look for a proactive cardiologist to help prevent exacerbations through simple lifestyle changes. Daily morning weight exercises are essential. Fluid weight gain can be easily resolved with an increase in medication for a few days if caught when the gain is within 5 pounds. Weighing yourself at the same time, in the same clothes will ensure that you are the first to know if you’re retaining fluid. It is very important to properly take your medications daily. Many will skip days when going out to avoid being bothered by increased urination. For some, this can be a grave mistake. Lastly, keeping your daily sodium intake to under 2000mg will help prevent your body from retaining fluid which becomes the catalyst to heart failure.

Let’s all strive to be more heart healthy. Success is up to you!

Traci Graf, RN

Avid Home Care Services

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