We have only one, and it is perhaps the most fundamental organ in our bodies – so learning that our heart is “failing” is frightening. Congestive heart failure, or CHF, impacts about 6 million people in the United States alone, according to the CDC, and even though it’s a chronic illness, there are actions people can take to slow the advancement and control the effects.
What Are the Causes of Congestive Heart Failure?
In general, CHF is the result of a weakening of the heart from issues such as:
- Heart attack
- Coronary heart disease
- Cardiomyopathy (injury 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 principal levels of CHF:
Individuals at risk for developing congestive heart failure as a result of having diabetes, a family history of cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, or early coronary artery disease are considered to be in the early stage of the disease. At this level, changes in lifestyle are crucial to stop CHF from developing. This could include medication, exercise, and dietary changes.
During this phase, there are some signs of changes to the heart that could trigger CHF. There could have been a prior heart attack or heart valve disease, or elevated blood pressure could be decreasing heart health. Treatment includes the lifestyle changes for Stage A, combined with potential surgical procedures or other treatments for heart valve disease, heart attack, or artery blockage.
Stage C is considered the first stage in which CHF is officially clinically diagnosed. Observable symptoms include inflammation in the legs, difficulty breathing (including after awakening or rising from a reclined position), and the lack of ability to exercise. Cardiac rehabilitation and medications may help enhance quality and length of life for individuals in Stage C.
By the time someone is at Stage D, treatments include a heart transplant or mechanical heart pump. It’s critical to see a heart specialist as soon as possible upon obtaining a Stage D CHF diagnosis to determine the optimum treatment plan.
How to Live With Congestive Heart Failure
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises moderately rigorous aerobic activity for a minimum of half an hour each day, five days per week, for maximum heart health. Still, it is important to seek the advice of the doctor for specific guidelines. In particular, exercise should not result in breathlessness for those with CHF.
Other lifestyle modifications to slow the development of CHF include:
- Following a low- or reduced-salt diet
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
- Sustaining a healthy body weight
- Keeping blood pressure levels in check
- Getting enough sleep
- Minimizing stress
How Home Care Can Help Someone With CHF
An experienced care provider can make a world of difference in the quality of life for a loved one with CHF. A few of the numerous ways they can assist include:
- Grocery shopping and preparing heart-healthy meals
- Providing transportation to doctor appointments
- Motivating and encouraging the senior to keep up with a fitness program
- Ensuring medications are taken exactly how and when they are prescribed
- Providing friendly companionship to relieve isolation and loneliness
- And more
Call Absolute Companion Care’s experts in senior care in Phoenix, MD and the surrounding areas at 410-357-9640 for more information about how our trusted home care services can make each day the very best it can be for someone with CHF.