Living With Heart Failure

According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 5 people will develop heart failure (HF). In HF, the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Either the heart cannot fill with enough blood or it is unable to pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force. While HF is a chronic, progressive disease it does not mean the heart will stop working and nothing can be done to treat it. The condition is also commonly called congestive heart failure, right-sided heart failure, or left-sided heart failure.

Generally speaking, HF is more likely to occur in people 65 or older. In fact, it is the most common reason for seniors to be hospitalized. Men have a higher rate of HF than women. It is also more common in African Americans. However, anyone can develop the disease at anytime. This is especially true for those who have other conditions that put a strain on the heart such as diabetes, high blood pressure, angina, coronary artery disease, heart attack, congenital heart defects, cardiomyopathy, valve diseases, and arrhythmias.


Signs and Symptoms

  • Swelling especially in the feet, legs, or abdomen;
  • Sudden weight gain;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing;
  • Difficulty breathing while asleep or lying down;
  • Lightheadedness, fatigue, or fainting.

If you experience one or more of these symptoms see you doctor or health care professional.

Managing Heart Failure

Make lifestyle changes. Follow all doctor’s recommendations before making any lifestyle changes. Usually, with some modifications, people with HF can live active, enjoyable lives and may even see some improvement in their condition.  Quit tobacco use, lose or maintain weight, avoid alcohol, limit caffeine, manage stress, and exercise daily.

Cardiac Rehabilitation. This is a medically supervised program which helps improve a patient’s quality of life. Cardiac rehab involves a team of health care professionals who provide care, education, and guidance on managing HF including physical therapy, nutrition, and exercise.

Medications. Depending on the stage of the disease, a variety of medications are available for patients with HF.



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