While serious, people can have fulfilling lives with this condition
Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a condition where the heart doesn't pump blood as efficiently as it should. The term 'congestive' refers to the accumulation of fluid in various parts of the body because of this inefficient pumping. While the American Heart Association estimates about 6.2 million Americans have CHF, many people may not be aware they have it due to its slowly progressing nature.
While it's a serious condition, with appropriate management and treatment, many people with CHF can continue to lead active and fulfilling lives. The key is proper management of the condition, which typically involves a combination of medication, lifestyle modifications, and sometimes surgical procedures or medical devices. The specific treatment plan will depend on the severity of the heart failure and the individual's overall health.
What are the risks?
CHF can lead to serious complications, including kidney damage or failure, liver damage, and heart valve problems. It also considerably increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and death. The symptoms and severity of CHF can progressively worsen over time, making early diagnosis and management critical.
- Feeling tired or weak
- Shortness of breath, especially when lying down or exerting yourself
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink phlegm
CHF is typically a chronic condition, meaning it's not curable but can be managed effectively with lifestyle changes and medication. This could involve a low-sodium, heart-healthy diet, regular physical activity, and medications to help the heart pump more efficiently, reduce fluid buildup, or address the root cause.
Medications like beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics are often prescribed. Some patients, particularly those at high risk of stroke, might also take blood thinners. However, these drugs come with a risk of bleeding, and not all patients can tolerate them.
For some patients with advanced heart failure, a device such as a pacemaker or defibrillator might be necessary, or in severe cases, a heart transplant could be considered. There are also devices designed to help the heart pump blood more effectively, acting as a bridge to transplant or as a long-term treatment for some people.
To help Valley residents, especially those recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease, better understand their condition and learn to live successfully with heart disease, South Texas Health System Heart offers a no-cost monthly education class. Led by Carol Mejia, RN, BSN, the hospital’s Director of Advanced Cardiac Care Services, the sessions cover a multitude of self-management-related topics, including medications, low sodium diets, fluid intake, daily weight and symptom monitoring, activity recommendations and guidance on physician follow-ups.
“Heart failure and coronary artery disease are chronic conditions that require daily management to slow their progression and prevent frequent hospitalizations,” said Mejia. “Being diagnosed with heart disease can bring about fear and uncertainty. Through these educational classes, we strive to help patients better understand their diagnosis and take the necessary steps to prioritize their heart health to slow the progression of their condition and improve their overall quality of life.”
Taking place every Friday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m., the classes are hosted in the South Texas Advanced Cardiac Clinic Conference Room, which is located inside the STHS Heart Clinics at 500 E. Ridge Rd., McAllen, TX 78503. The classes are open to anyone diagnosed with heart failure and coronary artery disease and their caregivers.