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Congestive Heart Failure
Heart Health

Living with Heart Failure

About five million people in the U.S. have heart failure, and that number is inching up. The condition is linked to 300,000 deaths per year, and it’s the most common reason people are hospitalized.

The condition develops gradually, experts say, as the pumping ability of the heart grows weaker. At that point, it can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Or the heart can’t pump blood to the rest of the body with enough force. Some people suffer from both problems.

Heart failure  is also known as congestive heart failure, systolic heart failure, diastolic heart failure, left-sided heart failure, or right-sided heart failure.

Here, the experts from SeniorHealth, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are some recommendations on living with congestive heart failure:

Follow a Heart Healthy Diet

This is crucial. Not having a proper diet can make heart failure worse, the SeniorHealth experts say. A heart-healthy diet includes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Restrict your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar.

A heart healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar.

For more information about following a healthy diet, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s “Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH” and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate.gov Web site. Both resources provide general information about healthy eating.

Watch Fluid Intake

Excessive fluid intake can actually worsen heart failure, the SeniorHealth experts say. Talk to your doctor about the amount and types of fluid you should have each day. And monitor your weight, the experts say. Tell your doctor immediately if you have a sudden weigh gain, since that might be caused by extra fluid building up dangerously. Additionally, don’t drink alcohol.

Control Risk Factors

Heart failure can be control if you reduce risk factors for coronary artery disease, hypertension and diabetes. Ask your health-care team how you can control these conditions. Have your blood sugar level and blood pressure checked regularly. Ask how often you should take measurements at home.

The SeniorHealth experts also suggest that you:

Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Ask your health care team how to do that safely.

Exercise according to your doctor’s direction.

Quit smoking and avoid using illegal drugs., and try to avoid secondhand smoke.  For help to quit smoking, call toll-free, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Get enough rest.

For more information on senior-health issues, visit nih.seniorhealth.gov.

 

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