Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure also known as CHF or HF is very treatable chronic (long term) illness. It happens when your heart cannot pump enough blood to your body. It does not mean that your heart stops beating. It means that your heart beat is not as strong as it needs to be. When your body doesn’t get enough blood, it can’t do what it needs to do and you get weak and short of breath. The symptoms or what you feel like, when you have CHF are:

  • Feeling tired or weaker than normal.
  • Having trouble breathing or feeling like you can’t catch your breath.
  • Having swelling (edema) of your feet, legs, hands, stomach, or face.
  • You can’t do what you normally would do during the day.
  • You can’t lie flat; it is hard to breathe lying down.
  • Confusion
  • Gaining weight in just a few days.

There are many causes of CHF. One cause is already having heart disease, or if you had a heart attack in the past. Another cause is having a lung disease like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Anything that causes your heart to work harder can make it more likely that a person will develop CHF. Some chronic (long term) illnesses like diabetes, kidney disease or lupus can make it more likely to get CHF. Also, being overweight makes it more likely for a person to have CHF. There are other causes of CHF as well.

How is CHF treated?

There are many medicines that are very useful in treating CHF. ACE inhibitors are medicines that help your heart work better, decreasing symptoms and keeping your heart as healthy as possible, if you can’t take ACE inhibitors, your doctor may prescribe an Angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARBs), this medicine works almost like an ACE inhibitor. Another kind of drug is called a beta-blocker. It helps your heart beat stronger. Cardiac glycosides help your heart beat stronger and have less abnormal heart beats. Nitrates help dilate (make bigger around) your arteries in your heart and helps blood flow to your heart better. Vasodilators do much the same thing. Some people who have CHF must take blood thinners to keep them from getting blood clots. Another very important medication is a diuretic. A diuretic helps your body get rid of extra fluid in your body. You may urinate more with a diuretic, but is very important to take your medicine.

What about when I go home?

The first thing you need to do is…Try to relax. You can do this. Listen to your doctors and nurses. The very best thing you can do to know when you need to call the doctor is to listen to your body. aTake your medicines as prescribed, if you can’t for any reason, call your doctor. aFollow a low salt diet. Don’t add salt to your food, read food labels to make sure you aren’t eating too much salt. aTalk to your doctor about exercise.

Things to do when you get home:

  • Limit the amount of fluid you drink, usually about 1 liter or 4–8oz glasses a day is enough. Follow your doctor’s recommendation for your fluid restriction needs.
  • Make sure you take rest periods during the day.
  • If you smoke, QUIT! If you need help quitting, call your doctor.
  • Weigh yourself EVERY day and WRITE it down in a log book or on a calendar. If you gain 2 pounds or more in one day, call your doctor. If you gain 3-5 pounds in a week, call the doctor.
  • Take your medicines as prescribedFollow a low salt diet
  • Limit the amount of fluids you drink
  • Rest frequently
  • Quit smoking
  • See your doctor within one week

When do I call my doctor? Call right away if:

  • You gain 2 lbs in one day or 3-5 pounds in a few days
  • You have swelling in your feet, ankles, or other parts of your body
  • You are more tired than usual
  • You are having more trouble breathing
  • Have nausea or vomiting or no appetite (not hungry)
  • Your blood pressure is higher or lower than normal
  • Your heart feels like it is fluttering or jumping in your chest

Call 911 if:

  • You have sudden severe chest, arm, jaw or back pain
  • More trouble breathing than usual, or are having trouble breathing when lying down or while sleeping.
  • You feel dizzy or confused
  • You are coughing up anything that is pink and frothy, or you have a constant dry cough
  • Your heart is racing
  • You are vomiting or having diarrhea and are not able to eat or drink