Congestive Heart Failure
Despite the way it sounds, congestive heart failure does not mean that the heart suddenly stopped working. When your heart becomes weak from either illness or a heart attack, it is unable to effectively pump blood through your body. Blood and fluid back up in your lungs and in other parts of your body. This is called congestive heart failure.
Your healthcare provider considers medical history, physical exam results and the results of various tests to diagnose congestive heart failure. Tests to help diagnose congestive heart failure include an EKG, chest x-ray, BNP blood test, echocardiogram, Holter monitor or an exercise stress test.
Although congestive heart failure is a serious condition, it can be controlled with diet, exercise, medication and positive health habits.
- Breathing difficulties from simple activities or when sitting or lying down
- Waking up breathless at night
- Needing more than two pillows to sleep
- Fatigue/exercise intolerance
- Tiring easily
- Swelling of feet, ankles, or legs
- General feeling of weakness or fatigue
- Coughing that produces a mucus or pink, blood-tinged sputum
- Dry, hacking cough when lying flat in bed
- Frequent coughing
Some heart disease risk factors can include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
- Cocaine use
Living With Congestive Heart Failure
If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, there are many things you can do to help yourself.
- Limit total amount of fluids as recommended by your healthcare provider
- Limit your salt intake (learn what foods are high in salt)
- Measure your weight daily and contact your health care provider if weight change is significant
- Participate in aerobic exercise at levels recommended by your healthcare provider
- Maintain frequent visits to your healthcare provider and notify them if there is any change in your symptoms
- Stop smoking and do not use cocaine
- Know the names and dosages of your medications. Keep a list and take your medication with you to the doctor or hospital.
- Take all medications as prescribed by your doctor. Do not stop taking them without consulting with your doctor first.
Talk to your primary care provider or cardiologist about this condition, treatment options, resources and how to live with congestive heart failure.