Congestive Heart Failure is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and is increasing in part due to the aging population. Despite impressive improvements in medicine, mortality rates in patients afflicted with heart failure remains particularly high. Because of this, early detection and taking preventative measures is more imperative than ever.
How Heart Failure Affects the U.S.
Heart failure is prevalent in the U.S. Approximately 5 million individuals in the United States are affected by heart failure. According to some research, in 2009, about one in every nine deaths included heart failure as a contributing factor. Close to half of individuals who develop heart failure will pass from the disease within 5 years of diagnosis. Due to the cost of health care, medication and time missed from work, heart failure costs the U.S. an estimated $32 billion annually.
Heart Failure Risk Factors
Although genetics can play a role, there are certain risk factors that have consistently been linked to heart failure. Certain diseases will increase the risk of heart failure. Some of the most notorious of these diseases include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Behavior/lifestyle choices can also affect the likeliness for developing heart failure. These include (but are not limited to):
- Poor diet (diet high in fat, cholesterol, sodium, etc.)
- Lack of physical activity/exercise
Heart Failure – Signs and Symptoms
Recognizing common signs and symptoms can assist in the early detection of heart failure. When detected early, there are many measures that individuals can take to enhance and lengthen their lives. Some of the common symptoms of heart failure may include:
- Poor respiratory functions (shortness of breath during activity).
- Difficulty breathing when lying down flat.
- Weight gain accompanied by swelling in the feet, legs, ankles and/or stomach/abdomen.
- Overall feeling of fatigue/general weakness.
These symptoms are caused due to a buildup of fluid within the body. Symptoms may begin with feeling tired or being short of breath during routine physical activities. As a condition progresses, becoming short of breath and feeling weak will occur with less and less physical activity. A buildup in excess fluid may also result in weight gain, a frequent need to urinate, and a persistent cough that is more prevalent at night when laying down horizontally. The cough may be a symptom of acute pulmonary edema. Acute pulmonary, a buildup of fluid in the lungs, requires immediate emergency treatment.
Managing Life With Heart Failure
As of now, heart failure has no cure and patients afflicted with heart failure will most be required to adapt certain life changes such as taking medication regularly and/or following a treatment plan. Even though treatment does not cure heart failure, taking the steps recommended by a medical professional can enhance the overall quality of life of a patient and keep them healthier for longer.
Following a Treatment Plan
Although nobody likes change, a well designed treatment plan will make daily activities easier as well as reduce the likelihood for hospitalizations. These significant benefits serve as a great motivation for patients to follow their treatment plan. Here are some tips for taking care of yourself while afflicted with heart failure:
- Take medication as prescribed by your doctor.
- Implement and stick to the lifestyle changes recommended by your doctor.
- Learn about safe levels of activity. This requires talking to your doctor about daily. activities such as working, leisure activities, sex, and exercise.
- Don’t miss medical appointments. It is important not to miss appointments. Routine appointments helps physicians gather the information they need to provide more effective treatment plans.
- Stick to the diet plan assigned by your doctor.
- Avoid alcohol.
Making certain behavioral changes will help patients stay healthy and out of the hospital. However, medication is only beneficial if it is taken, and a diet only works if it is followed. Managing a treatment plan can be difficult, but communicating with your doctor will make it easier and will help to avoid complications such as unwanted side effects caused by the combination of multiple medications.
Learn More About Your Condition
If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, being well informed about your disease can make a difference. If you have heart failure, it is important to know when you should seek help such as emergency treatment. Because complications do arise, being organized will help you manage any potential emergencies. Heart failure patients can get organized by having their doctor’s contact information and hospital contact information in a readily accessible place.
Patients may decide to have pre-written directions to their doctor’s office or hospital so that others can transport them more easily during emergencies. Because certain medications can cause additional complications, having a pre-written list of medications being taken (dosages included) to provide to medical professionals may help them provide medical treatment more quickly.
Emotional Burdens of Heart Failure
Heart failure is a serious medical condition and patients may develop emotional issues such as anxiety, fear, and depression. Patients can help to alleviate these negative emotional burdens to a degree by communicating openly to their health care team or a professional counselor. To better adjust to the major life change, some patients also decide to join a support group. Patients should also remember that their community of family and friends will be eager to listen and to provide encouragement.
Hospice Can Provide Support
Hospice care is a specialized form of medical care that is reserved for patients who have been given a diagnosis of six months or less left to live. There may come a point when a patient and their doctor agree that focusing on enhancing the quality of life is more valuable than attempting to lengthen the duration of life. When this decision is made, hospice can step in and provide the physical, emotional, and spiritual support that patients with heart failure require. To learn more about hospice for heart disease patients, contact Harbor Light Hospice by phone or send us a message online today.