Heart Health: Heart Failure

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Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a very common condition that millions of North Americans are diagnosed with each year. It’s usually caused by a weakening heart muscle as a result of the body retaining sodium. This causes fluid to build up around the heart and pump inefficiently. Fortunately, with early treatment and proper management, it’s possible to slow and/or reverse chronic heart failure.

Causes & Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

There are different reasons why the heart muscle weakens, including a heart attack, heart valve disease or long-term high blood pressure. Symptoms of congestive heart failure include:

-Shortness of breath, especially during exercise -Cough -Fatigue -Swelling of the feet and legs

If your healthcare provider suspects you may have congestive heart failure, he or she will perform a physical exam and tests such as echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, blood tests and stress tests. Depending on the results, you may need further testing such as a coronary angiogram.

Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure

The earlier congestive heart failure is diagnosed, the better the outcome. There are a number of medications that work to improve the heart’s pumping function and decrease heart failure symptoms. A pacemaker may be an option to improve heart function, while an implantable defibrillator can correct abnormal heart rhythms.

Lifestyle changes will also determine how successful your chronic heart failure treatment will be. It’s important to avoid sodium in your diet, as this leads to fluid retention. This doesn’t just mean not adding salt to your food; you need to closely examine labels and plan low-sodium meals. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you weigh yourself daily to monitor fluid status. Many patients benefit from a cardiac rehabilitation program, and regular exercise is essential for all patients. If you’re overweight or obese, you’ll need to work with your healthcare team to lose weight.

With early diagnosis and the patient and healthcare team working together to manage congestive heart failure, it’s now possible to live a long, healthy and active life.

Causes of Heart Failure

There are a number of conditions that can lead to heart failure; it is most often related to another disease or illness such as: