Congestive Heart Failure
Information - Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is a chronic heart condition that occurs when your heart muscle is ineffective at pumping blood. Certain heart conditions such as high blood pressure or coronary artery disease can lead to congestive heart failure. While the term "heart failure" is often used used, congestive heart failure is the stage in which fluid builds up around the heart, causing it to pump inefficiently.
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Symptoms & Diagnosis
CHF symptoms include:
• Shortness of breath
• Edema (swelling) of the legs, feet and ankles
• Irregular or rapid heartbeat
• Coughing or wheezing
• Nausea and/or lack of appetite
To diagnose congestive heart failure your cardiologist will perform a physical exam and order diagnostic tests that may include electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, blood tests, MRI, cardiac catheterization or stress tests. Once you have a clear diagnosis of congestive heart failure, your family physician, specialist, chronic disease nurse or pharmacist will sit down with you and talk about prevention of flare-ups and maintenance of your heart function through lifestyle measures such as diet and exercise and pharmaceutical management.
Congestive Heart Failure Treatment
Treatment depends on your health and stage of heart failure. Congestive heart failure treatments may include beta-blockers to lower blood pressure and slow a rapid heartbeat, ACE inhibitors to improve blood flow and diuretics to reduce extra fluids. In more serious cases of congestive heart failure you may need heart surgery such as angioplasty to open up narrowed arteries.
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to prevent congestive heart failure, or at least to slow its progress.
Lifestyle modifications include a well-balanced diet and limiting salt, getting enough exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
A well balanced diet allows the body to receive all the nutrients it needs to thrive and effectively manage chronic conditions. The diet should include a colourful variety of vegetables and fruit, lean proteins and healthy fats. It is also very important to limit sugar and avoid processed foods.
Limiting dietary salt is another crucial component to managing congestive heart failure as it directly affects how much water your body retains. Fluid retention is one of the biggest issues heart failure patients face. In terms of salt intake, you should aim to eat less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium daily. On average the North American diet includes between 4000-5000 milligrams each day!
An effective dietary strategy to reduce sodium intake is by following the DASH diet. The DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet encourages whole grains, lots
of vegetables and fruit, nuts/seeds and legumes, lean meats and fish.
Here is an example meal plan:
- 2/3 cup steel cut oatmeal with ¼ cup ground almonds and ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup mixed berries and 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
- Quinoa and bean salad – 1 cup cooked quinoa, ½ cup mixed beans, cucumber, green beans, red onion, shredded carrots, celery, balsamic vinaigrette.
- 1 cup cantaloupe
- 1 cup seedless grapes and 1oz cheese
- Kale salad in lemon Caesar dressing
- 4oz grilled salmon
- Roasted cauliflower, sweet potato and white potato
- Baked apple in cinnamon
To learn more about the DASH diet click here.
Regular follow-ups with your dietitian will help ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need and avoiding hidden salt sources which could be impacting your condition.
Another effective tool to managing water retention is daily weight monitoring. Just as a diabetic would do daily blood glucose check to manage their blood sugars, a person with heart failure should be doing a daily weight checks to monitor for fluid retention. Weigh yourself before breakfast and consult with your healthcare provider if you gain five pounds in a week or four pounds in two or three days.
Exercise is another important lifestyle factor that can help manage chronic heart failure. Ideally, an exercise prescription would include 10 -15 minutes of warm-up activities plus 20-30 minutes of aerobic and resistance exercise followed by a cool-down period of at least 5 minutes. This exercise prescription should be repeated 3-5 times a week.
Since heart failure is sometimes difficult and challenging to diagnose and manage, nothing can replace the one-on-one relationship you have with your physician. He or she can send you to the right team members so you understand how you can manage your heart failure.
Talk to your cardiologist if you'd like more information on congestive heart failure.
Visit HealthChoicesFirst.com for more videos and resources on heart health.
Print this Action Plan and check off items that you want to discuss with your healthcare provider
Talk to family physician about scheduling an appointment with a cardiologist to perform a physical exam and order diagnostic tests to diagnose CHF.
Review medication plan with family physician and/or cardiologist.
Discuss with healthcare professional whether more serious interventions such as an angioplasty will be recommened.
Make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to assess nutrient needs for CHF.
To help reduce fluid retention, assess dietary intake of sodium to ensure a low sodium intake of 2000mg/day or less daily.