According to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas ranks third in the nation for death from heart disease. It is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the state. To fight these statistics, White River Medical Center (WRMC) Heart Failure Clinic is educating the community about heart failure.
What is Heart Failure?
Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to support other organs in your body. Heart failure, although a serious condition, does not mean that the heart is about to stop working; it means that when the heart cannot pump enough blood or oxygen to all the parts of the body and certain symptoms may occur. Those symptoms are warning signs for patients with heart failure that they may need to make certain lifestyle adjustments, or may need medication adjustments to control the symptoms.
What Causes Heart Failure?
Heart failure can be caused by many attributes: blockage to arteries of the heart, high blood pressure for long durations, infection, valves in your heart not opening and closing correctly, alcohol, genetics, pregnancy, and the heart’s electrical system. Symptoms of heart failure may include trouble breathing when exerting yourself, at night, or lying flat, or having a dry cough or loss of appetite. Feeling too tired to do regular activities or feeling tightness in your socks, shoes, and pants could also be symptoms. Treatment for heart failure includes various avenues such as diet, exercise, and medication.
How Do You Treat Heart Failure?
A heart failure diet consists of sodium and fluid restrictions. Sodium (salt) can increase blood pressure and cause fluid retention. Fluid retention is when fluid gathers in the body. Fluid retention often leads to the symptoms of heart failure such as trouble breathing or swelling in your legs or belly. Sodium restriction is usually recommended to 2500 mg or 2.5 grams of sodium a day. However, sodium involves more than just not adding salt to your food; it also means the hidden sodium in foods we already eat. Some foods that have high sodium are canned soups, frozen meals, processed foods, meat dishes, cold cuts and cured meats. It is important for patients with heart failure to read food labels and take into account serving sizes. Fluid restriction is usually limited to two liters a day; however, may be restricted further for certain patients. Fluids include all liquids, including foods like Jell-O.
You can and should be active when you have heart failure. Exercise has many benefits for the heart. The heart is a muscle, and it needs exercise like any other muscle in the body. Some benefits of exercise are losing weight and keeping from gaining weight, having more energy and feeling better, lowering cholesterol, keeping your blood pressure healthy, and improving circulation. Cardiac Rehab is a program at White River Health System that benefits many patients with heart disease, including heart failure. Cardiac Rehab has specialized nurses who monitor patients while exercising. Patients are taught diet and exercise regiments they can implement in their daily lives for a healthier lifestyle. There are certain requirements for Cardiac Rehab so it’s important to speak to your cardiologist or primary care provider if you are interested.
Medications for heart failure can be complex. There are several different classes of heart failure medications, and many of these medications are prescribed for other reasons as well. Speak with your health care provider to help decipher which medication is right for you.
Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD) are often used in patients with heart failure, which is due to weakened contraction strength of the heart. Those patients are susceptible to abnormal heart rhythms which can be dangerous or deadly. An internal defibrillator monitors continuously for these abnormal rhythms and is able to provide an electrical shock if needed to stabilize the heart rhythm.
Heart Failure Awareness week is Feb. 11 through Feb. 15. The WRMC Heart Failure Clinic offers heart failure medication management and optimization, patient education, home visits, diuretic drug therapy, and much more. Deanna Nast, APRN, Heart Failure Clinic provider, works closely with Drs. David Boike, Margaret Kuykendall, Bennett Rudorfer, and Athan Stoyioglou to provide care for patients with heart failure.
The clinic is available Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you have heart failure and are interested in becoming a patient at the WRMC Heart Failure Clinic, call (870) 698-1635. If you are interested in learning more about Cardiac Rehabilitation, call (870) 262-6168. The clinic is an affiliate of White River Health System.
Image via WRMC