Heart failure December 10, 2019 – Posted in: General News – Tags: , ,

What is heart failure?

Heart failure means your heart does not pump blood as well as it should. As a result, fluid backs up in the body, and the organs in the body do not get as much blood as they need. Fluid may build in the lungs and other parts of the body and manifest as shortness of breath, easy fatigability, and palpitations. You may also notice some swelling in your feet, legs or abdomen. If you have heart failure, your heart has not actually “failed” or stopped beating. It just isn’t working as well as it should.

What causes heart failure?

Heart failure usually results from a failure of the heart muscle to pump efficiently, but may also occur in the presence of near-normal heart function under conditions of high demand. High blood pressure (hypertension) which is poorly controlled is the most common cause of heart failure in Ghana. Other causes of heart failure include:  Heart Attack  Heart Muscle Disease (cardiomyopathy)  Abnormal heart valves  Viral illness  Drugs (including alcohol, cocaine and chemotherapy)  Irregular or abnormal heart beat  Pregnancy  Other medical conditions like Diabetes and Overweight Sometimes the cause of heart failure may be unknown

What are the signs and symptoms of heart failure?

The following symptoms and signs may be present in heart failure.  Trouble breathing that is worse during exercise or when lying down  Swelling in your ankles, legs, and abdomen  Feeling restless, tired, or weak  Have an unpleasant awareness of your own heartbeat (palpitations). You may feel that your heart is pounding or racing.  Gaining weight  Having a cough that does not go away and/or gets worse when lying down  Coughing up frothy sputum  Needing 2 or more pillows at night or having to sleep in the chair

Taking care of yourself

In addition to the medication prescribed by your doctor for treating your heart failure, there are certain general measures you can take to improve the success of the treatment.  Take your medications exactly as directed by your doctor  Keep follow-up appointments.

It is important that you attend follow-up appointments with your doctor. These appointments are important so your doctor can closely monitor your condition and the effects of the prescribed medications on you. 

Follow a low sodium or salt diet: Salt (sodium) can make your body hold on to too much water and make your heart work harder. Salt should not be added to already-prepared food. Note that many canned, pickled, processed and fast foods contain high amounts of sodium and should be avoided. A 2 gram (2000 mg) per day diet restriction is recommended (one teaspoon of table salt contains about 2300 mg of sodium). 

Avoid drinking excess fluids: Generally, limit fluid intake to no more than 1.5 liters each day or as prescribed by your doctor. The following hints may help control your fluid intake: o Drink in sips instead of gulps. o Use small cups and glasses for beverages o Try lemon or chewing gum to stimulate saliva and moisten a dry mouth. o Chew on ice cubes. o Measure fluid allotment for the day and store it in a container in the refrigerator 

Avoid alcohol consumption: You should avoid alcohol as it can damage your heart muscle and can further weaken your already-weak heart. You should honestly discuss how much you have been drinking with your doctor. Your doctor can help you with tips and services to stop drinking. 

Stop Smoking: You need to stop smoking because smoking worsens heart failure and increases the chance that you will have a heart attack or die. 

Get regular exercise: You can exercise safely. Discuss with your doctor to determine what level of exercise is appropriate for you. Along with your prescribed medications, exercise will help you feel better, walk farther and relieve stress. It will also improve your sleep and help you lose weight. Remember to talk to your primary healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. Avoid tasks that require heavy lifting.

If you experience any one of the following symptoms during activities, STOP AND REST: o Any change in your breathing (shortness of breath) o Cough o Chest Discomfort or pain o Dizziness o Severe palpitations or fast heart beat o Extreme Weakness or Tiredness 

Maintain a normal body weight. If possible, weigh yourself daily. A sudden weight gain is one sign that you may be retaining fluid. Weigh yourself: o At the same time every day (preferably first thing in the morning) using the same scale o Without clothes or in lightweight clothing o After you urinate o Before you eat breakfast Notify your healthcare provider if your weight goes up by more than 1 kilogram in 1 day, or 2 kilograms in 1 week. This may be a sign that your body is holding on to too much fluid and might need an adjustment to your medicines. 

Do not take any herbal medications without the approval of your doctor. Please let your doctor know of any additional remedy or therapy you are taking. With proper management, patients with heart failure can have productive lives. It is important that you keep your follow-up appointments with your healthcare professionals who will closely monitor your condition as well as the effects of the prescribed medications on you.

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