What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Hannah Mitchell Heart Failure Clinic

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a scary sounding name for a fairly common disease. CHF means that the heart is not pumping enough blood to meet the body’s demands. This weakened pump frequently results in fluid backing up in your lungs or legs and abdomen.

With Arkansas Heart Hospital’s advanced CHF treatments and one-on-one guidance in creating healthy lifestyle changes, patients’ CHF can be successfully managed and even reversed.

“Arkansas Heart Hospital’s goal is to prevent hospitalizations and improve heart failure patients’ quality of life,” said CHF Clinic’s Hannah Mitchell, APRN. “We provide intensive individualized and compassionate care to give our patients the very best chance to live a longer, happier life.”

CHF Risk Factors

Certain conditions can increase your risk for heart failure, including:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Unhealthy behaviors can also increase your risk for heart failure, including:
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Eating foods high in fat, cholesterol and sodium
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

CHF Symptoms

Common symptoms of new or worsening CHF:

  • Shortness of breath that is worse when you lay down or sleep
  • Swollen feet, ankles and legs
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Persistent cough or wheezing
  • Tightness in belly
  • Increased fatigue and shortness of breath with routine activity
  • Rapid weight gain of three pounds in a day or five pounds or more in a week
  • Nausea and lack of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
  • Chest pain if heart failure is caused by a heart attack

CHF Treatment

Being diagnosed with CHF does not mean you can’t enjoy life. With proper treatment and your active involvement in committing to lifestyle changes (most importantly, a low sodium diet), you can significantly improve your symptoms, feel better, and live a longer and more active life.

Lifestyle Changes You Can Control

Quit Smoking
Heart failure patients that quit smoking have a 30 percent lower rate of death than those who smoke. This improvement in death rates from quitting smoking is the about the same benefit that patients gain from taking important heart failure medications.

Maintain or Lose Weight
Obesity can raise your risk of developing a variety of heart-related conditions, including CHF. It changes your cholesterol levels, raises your blood pressure and can lead to diabetes, all risk factors for CHF. Losing just five pounds can decrease your risk for CHF.

Avoiding or Limiting Alcohol
The cardiovascular system is affected by alcohol. Excessive, long-term drinking can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke.

Be Physically Active
Exercise lowers your blood pressure, controls or helps you lose weight, strengthens muscles, stops or slows the development of diabetes, lowers stress and reduces inflammation – all things that are vital to preventing and managing CHF.

Limit Sodium
If you eat too much sodium, you will pull excess fluid into your blood stream that your weakened heart will have to pump. It’s recommended that you eat no more than 2,000 mg of sodium daily (unless otherwise directed by your doctor).

Limit Fluid
If you have heart failure and are taking strong diuretics, you usually need to limit fluid intake. Otherwise, you will undo the work of the diuretics in pulling fluid out of your bloodstream. You should limit your fluid intake to 64 ounces a day (unless otherwise directed by your doctor).

Monitor the Scale
Increases in your daily weight are an important sign of worsening heart failure. A rapid weight gain of three pounds overnight or five or more pounds in a week is usually due to fluid overload. Keeping a record of your daily weights will help you identify fluid overload at the early stages so you can contact your healthcare provider who can adjust your medications to keep you out of the hospital.

Manage Stress
Stress can increase inflammation in your body, which in turn is linked to factors that can hurt your heart. You can manage stress through deep breathing, exercising, eating well, limiting social media time and connecting with others.

Arkansas Heart Hospital CardioMEMS Program

Arkansas Heart Hospital is proud to offer CHF treatment through our CardioMEMS Program. The CardioMEMS system provides early detection of worsening heart failure before symptoms arise.

“CardioMEMS is a small device implanted by our cardiologists to detect the progression of heart failure weeks before you ever develop signs or symptoms,” Mitchell said. “This allows for more timely management and will help keep patients out of the hospital. This device allows us both our clinic and patients to track their pulmonary artery pressure from the comfort of their home.”

Watch a CardioMEMS implant procedure animation.

Learn more about Arkansas Heart Hospital’s CHF treatments.