We only have one, and it is perhaps the most important organ in our bodies – so learning that our heart is “failing” is distressing. Congestive heart failure, or CHF, affects nearly 6 million individuals in the U.S. alone, as reported by the CDC, and even though it’s a chronic illness, there are measures people can take to slow the advancement, control the effects, and live with CHF at home.
What Causes CHF?
Essentially, CHF is the outcome of a weakening of the heart from conditions such as:
- Heart attack
- 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 four primary stages of CHF:
Those who are at risk for developing congestive heart failure due to a family history of cardiomyopathy, early coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, are considered in the first stage of the disease. At this level, changes in lifestyle are critical to stop CHF from developing. This may include medication, exercise, and dietary changes.
In this stage, there is some indication of changes in the heart that could trigger CHF. There might have been a preceding heart attack or heart valve disease, or elevated blood pressure may be decreasing heart health. Treatment includes the lifestyle adjustments for Stage A, coupled with possible surgery or other treatment for heart valve disease, heart attack, or artery blockage.
Stage C is considered the first stage in which CHF is officially diagnosed. Observable symptoms include swelling in the legs, shortness of breath (including after waking up or getting up from a lying down position), and the lack of ability to exercise. Cardiac therapy and medications can help enhance quality and duration of life for people in Stage C.
By the time someone reaches Stage D, treatments include a heart transplant or mechanical heart pump. It’s essential to see a heart specialist as soon as possible upon getting a Stage D CHF diagnosis to determine the most effective treatment plan.
How Can a Person Live With CHF?
The American Heart Association advises moderately rigorous aerobic exercise for a minimum of a half an hour per day, five days per week, for optimal heart health. Still, it is important to seek the advice of the doctor for specific recommendations. Specifically, exercise shouldn’t result in breathlessness for people who have CHF.
Other noteworthy lifestyle modifications to slow the development of the disease include:
- Following a low- or reduced-salt diet
- Staying away from alcohol and smoking
- Sustaining a healthy body weight
- Keeping blood pressure levels in check
- Getting enough sleep
- Reducing stress
How Can In-Home Care Help a Person With CHF?
A skilled care provider can make a significant difference in the quality of life for a loved one with congestive heart failure. Some of the various ways they are able to provide support include:
- Picking up groceries and preparing heart-healthy meals
- Offering transportation to medical appointments
- Motivating and encouraging the individual to keep up with a fitness program
- Ensuring medications are taken exactly how and when they are prescribed
- Offering friendly companionship to alleviate isolation and loneliness
- And more
Reach out [to Anthem Home Care, a provider of in-home senior care in Portland, TX and the surrounding communities, at 361-643-2323 to learn more about how our award-winning senior care services can make every day the very best it can be for someone with CHF.