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4 Myths about CHF that You Must Know

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
3
February 11, 2022

Many people don’t talk about congestive heart failure (CHF) when they have it. But most of us with the diagnosis will have the same thoughts and worries running through our minds. Before making any assumptions, let’s identify 4 common beliefs that we may develop with a diagnosis of heart failure that are totally untrue and should not cause you to worry.

Myth #1: You can’t tell if heart failure is getting worse until it is too late

False. Oftentimes with heart failure, there are several warning signs that appear before it becomes too serious. Monitor your symptoms, and make note of any changes to your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Weight

If you notice any abnormal changes, contact your physician.

Myth #2: Having ‘heart failure’ means that my heart stopped

Not true! Although, the word "failure" typically means that something is no longer working, that's not actually the case with heart failure. Heart failure develops slowly as the heart's ability to pump weakens. According to the AHA, the functional capacity of the heart is measured on a scale of 1 to 4, from mild to severe symptoms.

With advances in early diagnosis and treatment, oftentimes people can live long lives - as long as they stay on-track with their medication management and live responsibly and healthfully.

Myth #3: After being diagnosed with heart failure, you can’t reverse it

False. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) notes that heart failure can be treated through a combination of medication, surgery, implanted devices, and most importantly, lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes that improve your quality of life with heart failure are similar to those that can also help you prevent it:

Myth #4: I can’t exercise if I have heart failure

False. Exercise may be safe for you with a diagnosis of heart failure, and is still a great way to boost muscle and help your heart function properly. Be cautious of how you exercise, and don’t overexert yourself or go in extreme weather conditions. Many people with heart disease are able to live normal lives, says the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA). The American Heart Association (AHA) calls one measure of your heart’s strength as ‘functional capacity’ or how your body reacts to physical activity.

If you have stage 4 heart failure, you may not be able to tolerate exercise. ALWAYS talk with your doctor to know what’s the best workout routine to reduce your risks and improve your health.

Takeaways

Regardless of either having heart failure, or wanting to simply prevent it, there are 5 basic factors that you can control to both improve your chance of getting it and also improve your life with it: eat healthfully, exercise, don't smoke, keep your weight in healthy range, and keep your cholesterol controlled. Remember that having heart failure just means that you should focus more on these factors so that you may better protect your heart. Your future with heart disease is a hopeful one. Stay strong and keep up the effort!

If you are having trouble fine-tuning your diet or lifestyle, or if you just want a little reassurance, ask your team of Dietitians and Health Coaches to help. They can help troubleshoot any roadblocks in your health journey, suggestions to help you meet your goals, or simply provide support and motivation to keep going.