Congestive heart failure affects nearly 6 million Americans. It is caused when our heart pumps more weakly than it should. Although the name sounds like the heart fails, it does not actually stop. In reality, the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet our body’s demands. This results in the hospitalization of more than 500,000 people each year. Other heart diseases, such as coronary artery disease, can cause heart failure, as well as other conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. See your doctor if you feel fatigued, have trouble breathing, experience irregular heartbeats or notice swelling in your feet, ankles, abdomen, legs or neck. While there is no cure for heart failure, the disease can be treated with lifestyle changes and certain medications. These can help prolong your life. Here are seven ways a caregiver can take care of a loved one with heart failure:
- Stay connected. It’s vital for heart failure patients to maintain regular appointments with their doctor regardless of how well they think the condition is under control.
- Mind the medication. It’s important your loved one knows the names, doses and side effects of all his or her medications. Often, a combination of medications is key to managing the condition.
- Watch the weight. For heart failure patients, weight monitoring is essential as it reflects overall fluid volume in the body. When people with heart failure retain fluid it becomes a challenge for their weakened hearts.
- Promote a healthy diet. One of the most important steps for managing heart failure is controlling sodium intake. Encourage a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats, dried beans and whole-grain bread, which are naturally low in sodium.
- Exercise together. Regular aerobic exercise is important. It improves the efficiency of muscles and increases blood flow to arms and legs. Starting slowly and getting plenty of rest to prevent exhaustion also are important.
- Manage symptoms. Shortness of breath is a heart failure patient’s most common complaint, but there is help. Your loved one should avoid extreme temperatures, use pillows to prop him or herself up at night and avoid strenuous household chores.
- Offer support. People living with heart failure commonly become worried or depressed, and this just worsens things. Just knowing someone is there can lessen the blow and keep sad feelings away. Also, you can encourage your loved one to enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation program, which promotes both physical and mental wellness.
BrightStar Clinical Pathways for Heart Failure uses clinically proven methods to educate people with heart failure and their families on the key aspects of the condition and how to monitor symptoms, adhere to a plan of care, take their medication, improve wellness, and stay healthy. Click here for more information.