We have only one, and it is arguably the most fundamental organ in our bodies – so learning that our heart is “failing” is alarming. Congestive heart failure impacts about 6 million people in the United States alone, according to research by the CDC, and though it’s a chronic condition, there are actions people can take to slow the progression and manage the effects throughout all stages of CHF.
What Can Cause Congestive Heart Failure?
Essentially, CHF is the result of a weakening of the heart from conditions such as:
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- Cardiomyopathy (injury to the heart muscle)
- Malfunctioning heart valves
- Congenital heart defects
- Myocarditis (swelling of the heart muscle)
- Heart arrhythmias
- Thyroid disease
- As well as other chronic illnesses
What Are the Stages of CHF?
There are four primary stages of congestive heart failure:
Individuals in danger of developing congestive heart failure because they currently have a family history of cardiomyopathy, early coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, are considered in the early stage of CHF. At this level, lifestyle changes are critical to stop CHF from developing. This may include medication, exercise, and dietary changes.
In this stage, there are some signs of changes in the heart that could trigger CHF. There may have been a previous heart attack or heart valve disease, or raised blood pressure may be decreasing heart health. Treatment options include the lifestyle adjustments for Stage A, combined with potential surgical procedures or other treatments for heart valve disease, heart attack, or artery blockage.
Stage C is the first stage in which CHF is officially diagnosed. Symptoms include swelling in the legs, shortness of breath (including after awakening or getting up from a prone position), and the inability to exercise. Cardiac rehabilitation and medications can help improve quality and length of life for people in Stage C.
When a person gets to Stage D, the options include a heart transplant or mechanical heart pump. It is critical to see a heart specialist right away upon obtaining a diagnosis of Stage D CHF to determine the optimum plan of action.
How to Live With Congestive Heart Failure
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises moderately strenuous aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week, for optimal heart health. However, it is important to seek advice from the doctor for specific guidelines. Most notably, exercising should not cause breathlessness for people with CHF.
Other important lifestyle changes to slow the advancement of CHF include:
- Following a low- or reduced-salt diet
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
- Keeping a healthy body weight
- Keeping blood pressure levels in check
- Getting enough sleep
- Decreasing stress
How Home Care Can Help a Person With CHF
A skilled care provider can make a world of difference in the quality of life for a person with congestive heart failure. Some of the numerous ways they can help include:
- Grocery shopping and preparing heart-healthy meals
- Providing transportation to doctor appointments
- Motivating and encouraging the person to keep up with an exercise program
- Making sure medications are taken exactly how and when they have been prescribed
- Offering friendly companionship to alleviate loneliness and isolation
- Plus much more
Connect with Compassionate Nursing Services, a trusted provider of homecare assistance in Oakville, MO and the surrounding areas, at 314-432-4312 to find out more on how our trusted home care services can make every day the best it can be for someone with CHF.