Congestive heart failure (CHF) is often managed by a combination of medicine and lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes may include:
Lose Excess Weight
Excess weight can put a strain on the heart muscle, which can eventually lead to CHF. If you are overweight, adopt a sensible eating plan that will enable you to lose weight gradually and maintain your weight at the desired level. One indicator of healthy weight is body mass index. BMI of 25 and above is associated with high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart disease.
Discontinue or Avoid Smoking
Smoking damages your blood vessels, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and forces your heart to work harder. Discuss with your doctor the best way to help you quit smoking . Also remember that secondhand smoke is detrimental to your health. Make sure you are not exposed to cigarette smoke at all. When you quit smoking your risk of heart disease drops significantly within the first year.
Consume the Proper Amount of Sodium and Fluids
Foods that are high in sodium (salt) cause your body to retain fluids. Ask your doctor how much salt and fluid is right for you.
Limit Fats and Cholesterol
Diets that are high in saturated fats, and cholesterol—such as animal products, cream, lard, palm and coconut oils—can increase your risk of coronary artery disease , which can lead to CHF. You may want to consult with a dietitian to learn which foods you should restrict or avoid to help reduce saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
Maintain Normal Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a critical risk factor for CHF. Patients with poorly controlled blood pressure run twice the risk of developing heart failure compared with those people who do not have high blood pressure. Hypertension causes the heart muscle to work harder than normal. The increased strain on the heart, and the changes in the muscle in response to the strain, may eventually result in a weakened heart muscle and heart failure. Discuss with your doctor the best way to reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Decrease or Discontinue Alcohol Consumption
Excessive use of alcohol can weaken the heart and predispose it to abnormal rhythms. Alcohol also may react with certain heart medications. You should reduce alcohol intake if you are at risk of developing CHF; you will definitely need to discontinue alcohol consumption if you develop CHF. Talk with your doctor about how best to accomplish this.
Even though you might find that you are unable to exercise as vigorously as in the past, keeping as physically active as possible is an important goal in managing your CHF. Research suggests that people with stable CHF who participate in high-intensity aerobic training experience improvements in their physical activity level and quality of life. You should aim to exercise for 20-30 minutes at least five times each week. You can begin slowly and work your way to this goal. Do not begin any exercise program without consulting your doctor. Depending on the symptoms and severity of your condition, your doctor may have you do an exercise test before starting a program. If you have severe CHF, heavy lifting or extreme exertion is not recommended.
Talk to Your Doctor About Sexual Activity
It is normal to feel concerned about whether it is safe for you to resume sexual activity. In general, people who have heart failure that is stable and properly treated can engage in sexual activity. To find out what is safe for you, make an appointment to discuss this issue with your doctor.
Take Prescribed Medicines
Take any medicines your doctor has prescribed, such as diuretics or beta blockers. Use medicines as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
When to Contact Your Doctor
If you have CHF, there are some common warning signs that may signal worsening congestive heart failure. Contact your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Sudden weight gain (Weigh yourself daily. Call your doctor if you gain three or more pounds in one day, five or more pounds in one week, or whatever amount you were told to report. The best time to weigh yourself is before breakfast and after urinating. You should weigh yourself while wearing the same type of clothes, without shoes, and on the same scale. This will help you to know that your weight is accurate.)
- Shortness of breath that wakes you up at night, is present at rest, or is increased with exertion
- Increased swelling in the limbs, legs, or ankles
- Swelling in the abdomen, lack of appetite, or nausea
- Trouble sleeping (waking up short of breath, using more pillows)
- Frequent dry, hacking cough
- Increased fatigue
Your may need to have regular follow-up appointments to manage your CHF. Keep any appointments your doctor recommends.
- Reviewer: Michael J. Fucci, DO
- Review Date: 09/2012 -
- Update Date: 03/05/2013 -