We have only one, and it is perhaps the most fundamental organ in our bodies – so hearing from our doctor that our heart is “failing” is distressing. Congestive heart failure affects about 6 million individuals in the U.S. alone, as reported by the CDC, and although it’s a chronic illness, there are steps people can take to slow the advancement and better manage congestive heart failure.
What Causes CHF?
Generally speaking, CHF is the consequence of a weakening of the heart from ailments 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
- And other chronic illnesses
What Are the Stages of CHF?
There are four main stages of CHF:
Individuals at risk for developing CHF as a result of having a family history of cardiomyopathy, early coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, are considered to be in the early stage of the disease. At this stage, lifestyle changes are critical to prevent CHF from developing. This could include dietary changes, exercise, and medications.
In this stage, there are some signs of changes in the heart that could result in CHF. There may have been a preceding heart attack or heart valve disease, or elevated blood pressure might be diminishing heart health. Treatment includes the lifestyle modifications for Stage A, along with possible surgery or other treatment for artery blockage, heart valve disease, or heart attack.
Stage C is the first stage in which CHF is technically diagnosed. Observable symptoms include puffiness in the legs, shortness of breath (including after waking up or rising from lying down), and the inability to exercise. Cardiac rehab and medications might help improve quality and length of life for those in Stage C.
By the time someone gets to Stage D, options include a mechanical heart pump or heart transplant. It’s imperative to see a heart specialist right away upon getting a diagnosis of Stage D CHF to determine the best treatment solution.
How to Live With and Manage Congestive Heart Failure
The American Heart Association advises moderately rigorous aerobic exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes each day, five days a week, for optimal heart health. However, it is important to seek the advice of the doctor for specific recommendations. Notably, physical activity should not result in breathlessness for individuals with CHF.
Other important lifestyle modifications to slow the advancement of CHF include:
- Implementing a low- or reduced-salt diet
- Steering clear of alcohol and smoking
- Sustaining a healthy body weight
- Keeping blood pressure levels under control
- Getting enough sleep
- Lowering stress
How In-Home Care Can Help Someone With CHF
An experienced caregiver can make a world of difference in the quality of life for a person with CHF. A few of the many ways they are able to provide support include:
- Grocery shopping and preparing heart-healthy meals
- Providing transport to medical appointments
- Encouraging and motivating the individual to stick to a workout program
- Making sure medications are taken exactly how and when they have been prescribed
- Offering friendly companionship to alleviate isolation and loneliness
- And more
Get in touch with At-Home Care Company, a provider of in-home care in Pleasant Hill, IA and the surrounding communities, at 515-292-2650 for more information on how our award-winning home care services can make each day the very best it can be for someone with CHF.