Living with heart failure can seem overwhelming, but community support and education often help. Let’s review some basic terms and concepts you’ll need to know to manage a heart condition.
What is heart failure?
“Heart failure” basically means your heart isn’t pumping as it should. The weakened heart can’t supply enough oxygen and nutrients to your body through the bloodstream. This condition doesn’t go away, and it gets worse without treatment.
Is heart failure the same as a heart attack?
A heart failure and a heart attack are both forms of heart disease but with some important differences.
A heart attack often happens suddenly when blood flow can’t reach the heart. Without oxygen, your heart’s muscles begin to die, and sudden, acute heart failure may occur.
Heart failure can also develop slowly, with the weakening heart muscle having more trouble circulating much-needed blood to your body.
Is heart failure the same as congestive heart failure?
Care teams use the term congestive when the weakened heart results in fluid backup, causing swelling in your body’s tissues. This is called edema and is typical in the legs and ankles.
What puts a person at risk for heart failure?
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure and/or blood cholesterol
- Diabetes and prediabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Not getting enough exercise
- A family history of early heart disease
- A history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Unhealthy diet
What are the signs and symptoms of heart failure?
- Shortness of breath while moving or when lying down
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling in legs, ankles and feet
- Rapid/irregular heartbeat
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Ongoing cough or wheezing
- Increased urination at night
- Abdominal swelling
- Very rapid weight gain
- Lack of appetite and nausea
- Decreased alertness or difficulty concentrating
- Sudden, severe shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Seek emergency medical treatment if you experience chest pain, fainting or severe weakness, rapid or irregular heartbeat with shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting.
Can heart failure be prevented?
Reduce your risk by quitting smoking, exercising and eating to maintain a healthy weight, by controlling high blood pressure or diabetes, and reducing and managing stress.
How do we treat heart failure?
People with heart failure need treatment for the rest of their life. Care teams most often treat heart failure with medications based on a patient’s unique needs.
In addition to making healthy lifestyle changes, doctors may surgically repair or replace a heart valve. A coronary bypass routes blood flow around a severely blocked artery, and implantable defibrillators or pacemakers control irregular heartbeat.
You may be hospitalized if symptoms flare up. This allows closer monitoring and application of medications or use of supplemental oxygen, which can continue after you’re discharged.
In the most extreme cases, a heart transplant can improve a patient’s quality of life.
What challenges do people with heart failure face?
Because self-care coupled with medical support is critical to managing chronic heart failure, people with heart failure need to:
- Exercise as appropriate, staying active despite reduced abilities.
- Let your family and friends know what you’re going through and what to expect.
- Educate yourself about healthy diet choices and recipes.
- Seek support to handle anxiety, depression and fear.
- Check your weight, blood pressure and other factors your care team recommends.
For more information about this event, call (217) 904-7063 or learn more online.
For more information about heart failure, please speak to your primary care provider or visit Carle Heart and Vascular Institute.