St. Vincent's has brought together nurses, doctors, home care agencies and skilled nursing facilities, former patients and family members to partner with us in developing a comprehensive Heart Failure (HF) program of care which includes our Heart Failure Clinic.
Heart Failure (HF) is a very common problem in the United States. It affects over 550,000 Americans each year. It is the leading cause for hospital admissions for adults over the age of 65, and represents the highest cost for Medicare. The average man or women has about a 20% risk of developing heart failure at some time in his or her life.
HF occurs when the heart is unable to fill with or eject blood. HF can affect the right or left side of the heart or both. Two major types of HF are a weakened heart muscle (systolic heart failure) or diastolic failure, which occurs when the heart is not able to rest between heart beats. This happens because the heart muscle has become stiff.
Causes of HF
People with HF often experience fluid retention and/or an insufficient blood flow to the body. Symptoms of fluid retention are shortness of breath, ankle swelling, fullness or bloating in the belly. Symptoms of not enough blood flow to the body include fatigue, feeling dizzy, aches and pains, and anxiety.
The most common cause for a visit to the emergency room for someone with HF is fluid retention. Many times this fluid or congestion is due to eating too much salt. You can reduce the salt in your diet by following some simple guidelines. Make a concerted effort to only eat unpackaged, fresh foods that have not been salted and be sure to read the packaging of any food before eating to check for the amount of salt contained. Keep track of what percentage of your daily allowance you are consuming. You may be surprised at how much salt you are consuming without knowing. Seek the assistance of a dietician or nutrition specialist.
Key things you can do:
- Weigh yourself every day.
- Take your medicines. If you have high blood pressure make sure you take your medicine as directed.
- Eat a healthy diet low in sodium or salt and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes most days of the week .
- If you are overweight or obese, lose weight.
- Stop smoking.
- Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs.
- Keep a close eye on your symptoms and call your healthcare provider if they should get worse.
- Carry a current list of your medications
Heart failure management
HF can be managed with medications and close self-care. One aspect of self-care is understanding your illness. Be sure to talk with your doctor and nurses about your heart failure and treatments. Prognosis is hard to predict and your HF team may not be able to say how your body will respond to your weakened heart function. You and your family will need to work closely with your healthcare team.
Treatments can include many medications to help your heart, in some cases advanced treatments or surgery, and regular participation in our Heart Failure Clinic. Understanding the symptoms of HF and what to do when you have them is also important.
Understanding hospital discharge and medication instructions
Caring for people with heart failure can be complex due to other medical conditions associated with HF such as kidney disease, diabetes and coronary artery disease. People with HF are often taking many medicines and this makes it difficult to remember what to take and when to take it. A frequent cause for readmission to the hospital after discharge may be difficulty with understanding the discharge instruction and medications. For this reason it is important to see your health care provider within a week of discharge and follow your diet, medication and exercise instructions.
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To speak with a St. Vincent's Care Line representative, call (877) 255-7847
To speak with someone at the front desk of the Medical Center, please call (203) 576-6000
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