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Four simple habits to help keep congestive heart failure in check

Congestive heart failure is a common condition in which the heart does not pump blood as well as it should. It is the leading cause of hospitalization among people over age 65. 

According to Victoria Schaffer, RN, clinical educator with VNA of Ohio, CHF is manageable and there are simple things patients can do at home to avoid going to the hospital.
“Congestive heart failure is a very serious condition, but people can slow worsening heart damage and live longer when they manage their symptoms properly,” says Shaffer.
She focuses on teaching people how to treat their disease with a series of small manageable goals. She says to start with these four simple habits.

  1. Check your weight every day. If you are able to safely step onto a scale, checking your weight will help you keep track of any fluid retention. 
  2. Avoid eating too much salt. Read labels and look for low-sodium choices.  Fresh food is always best when possible.  “There is salt in everything,” says Shaffer.  “We teach patients look at labels and help them find low-salt options.”  
  3. Elevate your feet when sitting for a long period of time. This will make it easier for fluids to circulate and return to your heart.
  4. Make sure to take all your medications as directed -- heart pills, as well as all other medications. It is important to keep other conditions, like diabetes, under control.

Additional resources can be available to assist you as well.  For example, your doctor might refer you to a nutritionist who can help with your diet. Also, some patients can access heart monitoring technology that tracks their health right from home.  Patients receive a scale, blood pressure cuff, and a pulse ox monitor -- all connecting to a tablet via Bluetooth.  Weight and vital signs are automatically entered into the tablet and sent to the VNAO. If any numbers are irregular, the nurse can follow up with the patient or their doctor.
“Use all the resources available to you,” added Shaffer.  “People want a quick fix, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Try not to get frustrated.”

If you have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, ask your doctor if you are eligible for in-home care or call the Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio at (216) 931-1300 or contact us here.