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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

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Living with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
February 11, 2022
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Having congestive heart failure (CHF) may not be causing you serious symptoms yet, but over time living with CHF can become frustrating, uncomfortable, and you may feel that your health is out of your control. To manage your symptoms, and help prevent complications, there are a few lifestyle changes you may need to make.

Congestive Heart Failure is a chronic condition in which the heart doesn't pump blood as well as it should. It can occur if the heart cannot pump (systolic) or fill (diastolic) adequately. This leads to a backup of fluid in the heart, causing weight gain and also many symptoms. Here are some other definitions you may need to know as you learn about your condition.

Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs, and rapid heartbeat.

While daily home treatments can include eating less salt, limiting fluid intake, and taking prescription medications, in some cases a defibrillator or pacemaker may be implanted. Oftentimes the best treatment of a condition is monitoring and prevention. So here are a few tenets to live by:

Eat Well: Less Salt and Sodium

  1. Limit daily sodium intake to 2,000mg or less. Did your doctor give you a different sodium limit? Use that.
  2. Read labels and watch out for sodium content. If you get a packaged meal, make sure it is around 500mg sodium or less. Snacks should be around 150mg or less of sodium.
  3. Limit adding salt to foods - Regular table salt is 40% sodium, and 2000mg sodium is around 1 teaspoon of salt.
  4. Want some nice recipes to keep your sodium in-check? Try out some heart healthy recipes from Keep-It-Pumping.com

Watch What You Drink:

Your doctor may have told you to restrict how much fluids you drink in a day. If they have, then stick to it. Tell your care team that you are on a fluid restriction so that they ca better tailor their recommendations.

Exercise with Caution

(Recommendations from Cleveland Clinic and AHA Position Statement)

  1. There are 4 stages of heart failure. In the last and final stage, exercise is typically not recommended. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you aren’t sure if you can start a workout routine, or how fast you should walk.
  2. Always start your workouts with a 10-15 minute warmup period.
  3. It is best to walk 20-30 minutes per day, 5 days per week.
  4. You can start with 5-10 minutes per day at a slow pace and add time and speed as you get stronger.
  5. You should be able to talk while walking. If you are too short of breath, stop for 1-3 minutes and start walking again at a slower pace.
  6. If your legs feel weak and tired when walking, stop for 1-3 minutes and start walking again at a slower pace and for a shorter amount of time.
  7. Plan your walks so you don’t get too tired to walk back.
  8. Don’t walk outside if the temperature is below 20 degrees or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit with more than 80 percent humidity. Shopping malls are good places to walk in bad weather.

Take Medications

  1. Diuretics: You may be on furosemide, lasix, or hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ). Also known as 'water pills,' these cause you to excrete more fluids in your urine.
  2. Blood pressure medications (There are many different classes. Check this site out for the details on each)
  3. Things that lower heart rate: Channel Blockers (such as Ivabradine (Corlanor)), and Beta-blockers, (such as bisoprolol (zebeta), Metoprolol succinate (Toprol XL), Carvedilol (Coreg), Carvedilol CR (Coreg CR))
  4. Cholesterol-lowering medications (Statins): these are cholesterol-lowering drugs that may be prescribed if you have high cholesterol.
  5. Blood thinners (anticoagulants): these may be prescribed if you have atrial fibrillation, irregular heart beat, or other heart issues (heparin, warfarin, and Coumadin are common names)

Take them regularly to help your CHF and overall heart health.

Monitor Your Weight and Blood Pressure

  1. Check your weight daily. If your weight rises more than 3lb in a day, or 5lb in a week, this is irregular with CHF and an indication that your heart may be holding on to too much fluid. Call your doctor immediately if this is the case. If you are having more serious symptoms, you may need to seek emergency care.
  2. Check blood pressure. If you’ve been told you have high blood pressure, monitor it regularly and try to keep your blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg. The damage that a high blood pressure places on arteries can increase your risk for heart failure. Since not all people have high blood pressure with heart failure, talk to your doctor first about how often you should monitor your blood pressure.

Takeaways

Whether you need a lifestyle overhaul, or just want to fine-tune your routine for your best heart health, keep in mind that diet is important, and exercise is still encouraged for your best heart health. Talk to your doctor about how much exercise you’re able to do, what is an acceptable weight fluctuation, and if you have any sodium or fluid restrictions. If you have other conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure, check your cholesterol and blood pressure regularly, take your medications, eat a heart healthy DASH or mediterranean style diet to keep cholesterol controlled. Keep your care team in the loop about any changes in your health status, and let us help you through life’s little challenges. We are just an app message away!

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