Heart Failure: Causes and Treatment
If you have heart failure, healthy choices are necessary
Congestive heart failure, or CHF, is a common chronic condition causing reduced ability of the heart to circulate blood. Often referred to as "heart failure," CHF often leads to fluid accumulation in the lungs and throughout the body, causing shortness of breath and an inability to exercise. While it's serious and has no cure, there are treatments VA recommends, such as lifestyle changes and medications, that can help reduce the symptoms of CHF, improve your heart health, and overall well-being.
What causes it?
Heart failure occurs when your heart can't pump oxygen-rich blood to all parts of your body as well as it should. Certain conditions can also worsen heart failure, including:
What are the symptoms of CHF?
While some people don't show any signs of CHF, others can experience these common symptoms:
Shortness of breath with activity
Shortness of breath when trying to lie flat
Shortness of breath that wakes you up in the middle of the night
A cough that won't go away
Sudden weight gain
Swelling, especially in the legs and abdomen
Loss of appetite
Increased heart rate
Chest pain can also be a sign of a heart attack. If you experience this or any other symptoms that may point to a severe heart condition, seek immediate medical attention.
How can I treat it?
You can live a longer, more active life if you challenge yourself today. Start by making these lifestyle changes to manage and improve your heart health:
Limit the amount of sodium in your diet to 2,000 mg per day
Stay physically active
Reach or maintain a healthy weight
Quit tobacco use
Take your medications as directed
Keep appointments with your medical provider
In addition to making heart-healthy changes, your doctor may also recommend these medications. Depending on the cause of CHF, your provider may advise a procedure or surgery. The sooner you start taking steps to improve your heart health, the better chance you have of managing heart failure symptoms.
Each case may be different, so work with your health care team to find the treatment options that work best for you. Medications may need to be frequently adjusted to keep the symptoms of CHF controlled.
Track and share your heart health progress
Your health care provider's treatment plan can help you manage or prevent CHF symptoms from developing. My HealtheVet's Track Health feature makes it easy to monitor heart health and lifestyle changes, such as keeping track of your vitals and recording your food intake. If you have a My HealtheVet Premium Account, you can use your VA Blue Button report to share your vitals with your physicians in or out of the VA system. If you don't have a Premium Account, you can upgrade your account now.
Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.