We have only one, and it is perhaps the most critical organ in our bodies – so hearing from our doctor that our heart is “failing” is quite scary. Congestive heart failure, or CHF, affects nearly 6 million people in the United States alone, according to the CDC, and although it’s a chronic illness, there are steps people can take to slow the advancement and control the effects.
What Causes CHF?
Generally speaking, CHF is the result of a weakening of the heart from ailments such as:
- Heart attack
- Coronary heart disease
- Cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle)
- Malfunctioning heart valves
- Congenital heart defects
- Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- Heart arrhythmias
- Thyroid disease
- And other chronic illnesses
What Are the Stages of CHF?
There are 4 main levels of congestive heart failure:
People who are at risk for developing congestive heart failure because they currently have high blood pressure, diabetes, or early coronary artery disease are looked at as being in the early stage of CHF. At this level, changes in lifestyle are essential to prevent CHF from developing. This might include dietary changes, exercise, and medications.
In this stage, there is some indication of changes to the heart that could result in CHF. There may have been a preceding heart attack or heart valve disease, or elevated blood pressure may be affecting heart health. Treatment options include the lifestyle changes for Stage A, combined with potential surgical procedures or other treatments for artery blockage, heart valve disease, or heart attack.
Stage C is the first stage in which CHF is officially clinically diagnosed. Symptoms include swelling in the legs, difficulty breathing (including after awakening or rising from a reclined position), and the lack of ability to exercise. Cardiac therapy and medications may help improve quality and length of life for those in Stage C.
When a person arrives at Stage D, treatments include a mechanical heart pump or heart transplant. It is critical to see a heart specialist right away upon getting a Stage D CHF diagnosis to ascertain the best treatment plan.
How to Live With Congestive Heart Failure
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises moderately intensive aerobic activity for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 5 days each week, for optimal heart health. However, it’s important to check with the doctor for guidelines. Specifically, physical exercise shouldn’t result in breathlessness for individuals who have CHF.
Other 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 in order
- Getting sufficient amounts of sleep
- Decreasing stress
How In-Home Care Can Help Someone With CHF
An experienced care provider can make a significant difference in the quality of life for someone with CHF. Some of the various ways they can provide support include:
- Grocery shopping and preparing heart-healthy meals
- Providing transportation to doctor appointments
- Motivating and encouraging the senior to stick to a workout program
- Making sure medications are taken exactly how and when they are prescribed
- Offering friendly companionship to alleviate loneliness and isolation
- Plus much more
Call Home With You Senior Care’s experts in elder care in Howard County, MD and the surrounding communities at 410-756-0959 for additional information regarding how our trusted in-home care service can make each day the very best it can be for someone with CHF.