Understanding Congestive Heart Failure - Heart 'n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC

Understanding Congestive Heart Failure

Understanding your illness and treatment can help you feel more in control. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Dealing with heart disease involves doctors, nurses, social workers and other specially trained healthcare professionals. You will receive lots of new and complex information and need to make many serious decisions.  So it is important to be able to communicate clearly with your entire healthcare team.

Heart failure stops the heart from pumping blood as it should, it doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped beating. The heart keeps working, but the body’s need for blood and oxygen isn’t being met. Heart failure can get worse if it’s not treated so it is important to follow your physicians orders. When living a healthy lifestyle, you will feel much better and have a higher quality of life!

Results of Heart Failure

  • Heart does not pump enough blood.
  • Blood backs up in veins.
  • Fluid builds up, causing swelling in feet, ankles, and legs (edema).
  • Body holds too much fluid.
  • Fluid builds up in lungs, which is called “pulmonary congestion.”
  • Body does not get enough blood and oxygen.

 Signs of Heart Failure

  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down.
  • Feeling tired and run-down.
  • Swelling in feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen.
  • Angina (pain or discomfort in the chest).
  • Weight gain from fluid buildup.
  • Confusion or unable to think clearly.

 Causes of Heart Failure

  • Clogged arteries don’t let enough blood flow to the heart.
  • Past heart attack has done damage to the heart muscle.
  • Heart defects present since birth.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart valve disease.
  • Diseases of the heart muscle.
  • Infection of the heart and/or heart valves.

 Treating Heart Failure

  • Rest.
  • Consume less sodium (salt).
  • Prescriptions from your physician to help your heart to function better and to help your body from retaining excess fluids.

 (Adapted from the American Heart Association)

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Eating Healthy While Eating Out

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These days most people are so busy with work, kids, errands, and often caregiver responsibilities for a loved one that it is easier to let the priority of healthy eating slip to the bottom of the list.  It takes effort and commitment to change eating habits.  Change doesn’t typically happen overnight and that’s okay.  After all, it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so stick with it after a couple of weeks and you will have a higher success rate. Eventually, your new eating habits will become second nature, just as your old ones did. Eating healthier will improve your life as a whole. You will look better, feel better, and be healthier!  Don’t let the luxury of dining out be an excuse to eat unhealthy foods.  By thinking ahead and making smart choices, you can follow a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet almost anywhere you go!

When Ordering

  • Ask for it your way.
  • Ask about low-fat or fat-free choices.
  • Ask the server to make substitutions such as, steamed vegetables instead of french fries.
  • Pick lean meat, fish, or skinless chicken as a main dish. They are less fatty meats.
  • If an entrée fried, request it is broiled, baked, grilled, steamed, or poached.
  • Order vegetable side dishes and without sauce or butter.
  • Use a lemon to squeeze on your salad instead of their regular dressing. Or get dressing on the side and dip your fork as you eat.
  • If you can’t seem to find anything suitable for your eating plan, ask if the chef will make you a fruit or vegetable platter.

 Avoid It

  • Push the butter out of your way or ask that it be removed.
  • Order your dressings and sauces on the side so you can control how much you use.
  • Avoid fried appetizers and creamy soups. Begin your meal with broth-based soup like minestrone or gazpacho.
  • At salad bars, stay away from high-fat items like cheese, cream dressings, chopped eggs, croutons, olives, and bacon bits.
  • Ask that your food be made without butter or cream sauces. You’ll be surprised at how delicious meat, fish, and chicken can be when broiled “dry.”
  • Take the skin off chicken when it arrives, and remove visible.
  • Skip the desserts. If you have a sweet tooth order a side of fresh fruit.

 Ethnic Restaurants

  • At Oriental restaurants, order stir-fried chicken or a fish and vegetable dish. A steamed main dish is an even better choice.  Instead of fried rice, ask for steamed rice.
  • At Italian restaurants, choose red marinara sauces over white, creamy sauces. Try a fish dish or meatless pasta instead of entrees made with sausage or meatballs.  Eat plain Italian bread instead of buttery garlic bread.  Go easy on the grated parmesan cheese.
  • At Mexican restaurants, enjoy salsa or picante sauce, but limit guacamole, cheese, and sour cream. Opt for corn tortillas over flour and avoid refried beans.  Try soups, salads, or fresh seafood instead of fried foods.

(Adapted from the American Heart Association)



About High Blood Pressure

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Known as the “silent killer,” high blood pressure (HBP) often shows no obvious symptoms. There are over 3 million cases of high blood pressure per year and it is most common in people over the age of 65.  If you have high blood pressure, you are not alone. Nearly half of American adults have HBP. If you are unsure if you have high blood pressure, the best way to find out is to get it checked. High blood pressure or hypertension means the pressure in your arteries is elevated. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. When left untreated, the high blood pressure forcing through your circulatory system can put you are greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and other health risks.

Those at a higher risk:

  • Have relatives with HBP
  • African Americans
  • Are over the age of 35
  • Overweight individuals
  • Aren’t physically active
  • Eat too much salt
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Have diabetes, gout, or kidney disease
  • Are pregnant
  • Taking birth control

Taking your medication:

  • You may be prescribed multiple medications.
  • Medicine is most effective when taken regularly.
  • Ceasing to take medication without consulting your physician can be dangerous.
  • Even after your blood pressure is lowered, you may still need to take medicine – perhaps over a lifetime, to keep a normal blood pressure.

Remembering to take medications:

  • Take them at the same time daily.
  • Take with meals or other reoccurring daily events.
  • Use a weekly pill box.
  • Use a calendar.
  • Leave notes to remind yourself.

Side Effects

  • Weakness, tiredness, or drowsiness
  • Impotence
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Depression, sluggishness, trouble sleeping, nightmares
  • Slow or fast heartbeat
  • Skin rash
  • Loss of taste or dry mouth
  • Dry, constant cough, stuffy nose, or asthma symptoms
  • Ankle swelling, leg cramps, or joint aches
  • Headache, dizziness or swelling around the eyes
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Fever or anemia

Preventing high blood pressure:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increase physical activity.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods.
  • Consume less salt.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Avoid smoking.

Specialized End-of-Life Cardiac Program Available

In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack. You can greatly reduce your risk for CAD through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication.

During October, we will be sharing tips to help you prevent heart disease and live a heart smart life!

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