RIDGEWOOD, N.J. -- Heart failure may sound alarming, but an estimated 5 million Americans are currently living with the chronic condition. Heart failure is the result of the heart muscle weakening, limiting the heart’s ability to circulate enough blood to meet the body's needs.
This lack of circulation can cause shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling in the legs. When fluid builds up inside the body, the condition is then called congestive heart failure. Heart failure usually develops slowly, often as a result of an underlying heart condition, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, damaged heart valves, a congenital heart defect or arrhythmia. It may also arise as a complication of a heart attack.
"Although certain damage from heart failure may be irreversible, many treatments can strengthen the heart and improve symptoms," says Dr. Elliot Brown, a Cardiologist with Valley Medical Group. "Medications like Beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and diuretics can help patients live longer and more comfortably. Those with more severe cases of heart failure may benefit from surgery to repair damaged heart valves or unclog arteries."
Below are a range of lifestyle changes Dr. Brown says can help individuals with heart failure or those at risk for the disease live long and productive lives:
- Reduce sodium intake. Aim to consume less than 1,500 to 2,400 mg of sodium a day.
- Restrict fat and cholesterol, which can raise your risk of developing coronary artery disease, a leading contributor to heart failure.
- Cut down on alcohol and fluids. Alcohol use can weaken the heart and may interact with some heart failure medications. Excessive fluid intake can worsen severe heart failure.
- Exercise regularly to help strengthen heart muscle.
- Quit smoking.
- Ease stress. The rapid heart rate and heavy breathing associated with stress cause your heart to work even harder.
If you have concerns about your heart failure risk, or if you experience new or worsening symptoms of heart failure, talk to your cardiologist about your options. Proper care and lifestyle changes can make living with heart failure easier.
At Valley, heart failure specialists are available to help optimize patients’ health through the Outpatient Transitional Care Program. Valley Heart is a cardiovascular affiliate of the Cleveland Clinic's Heart & Vascular Institute.
To learn more about Valley’s cardiology services or to make an appointment with a Valley Medical Group cardiologist, visit www.ValleyMedicalGroup.com.