Excess weight can put a strain on the heart muscle, which can eventually lead to CHF. If you are overweight, adopt a sensible eating plan that will enable you to lose weight gradually and maintain your weight at the desired level.
One indicator of healthy weight is body mass index. BMI of 25 and above is associated with high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart disease.
Discontinue or Avoid Smoking
damages your blood vessels, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and forces your heart to work harder. Discuss with your doctor the best way to help you
Also remember that secondhand smoke is detrimental to your health. Make sure you are not exposed to cigarette smoke at all. When you quit smoking your risk of heart disease drops significantly within the first year.
Eat a Low Sodium Diet
Foods that are high in sodium (salt) cause your body to retain fluids. This results in an increased workload for your heart, and it can worsen your shortness of breath and swelling in the ankles, legs, and feet. Ask your doctor how much salt and fluid is right for you.
Limit Fats and Cholesterol
Diets that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol—such as animal products, cream, lard, palm and coconut oils—can increase your risk of
coronary artery disease
, which can lead to CHF. You may want to consult with a dietitian to learn which foods you should restrict or avoid to help reduce saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
Maintain Normal Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension)
is a critical risk factor for CHF. Patients with poorly controlled blood pressure run twice the risk of developing heart failure compared with those people who do not have high blood pressure. Hypertension causes the heart muscle to work harder than normal. The increased strain on the heart, and the changes in the muscle in response to the strain, may eventually result in a weakened heart muscle and heart failure. Discuss with your doctor the best way to reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Decrease or Discontinue Alcohol Consumption
Excessive use of alcohol
can weaken the heart and predispose it to abnormal rhythms. Alcohol also may react with certain heart medications. You should reduce alcohol intake if you are at risk of developing CHF; you will definitely need to discontinue alcohol consumption if you develop CHF. Talk with your doctor about how best to accomplish this.
Even though you might find that you are unable to exercise as vigorously as in the past, keeping as physically active as possible is an important goal in managing your CHF. Research suggests that people with stable CHF who participate in high-intensity aerobic training experience improvements in their physical activity level and quality of life.
Do not begin any exercise program without consulting your doctor. Depending on the symptoms and severity of your condition, your doctor may have you do an exercise test before starting a program. If you have severe CHF, heavy lifting or extreme exertion is
When to Contact Your Doctor
If you have CHF, there are some common warning signs that may signal worsening congestive heart failure. Contact your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
Sudden weight gain (three or more pounds in one day, five or more pounds in one week, or whatever amount you were told to report)
Shortness of breath that wakes you up at night, is present at rest, or is increased with exertion
Increased swelling in the limbs, legs, or ankles
Swelling in the abdomen, lack of appetite, or nausea
Trouble sleeping (waking up short of breath, using more pillows)
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2009;103:93-102. Epub 2008 Oct 17.
Siscovick DS, Raghunathan TE, King I, et al. Dietary intake and cell membrane levels of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the risk of primary cardiac arrest.
The Trials of Hypertension Prevention Collaborative Research Group. The effects of nonpharmacologic interventions on blood pressure of persons with high-normal levels. Results of the Trials of Hypertension Prevention, Phase 1.
*¹4/16/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Nilsson BB, Westheim A, Risberg MA. Effects of group-based high-intensity aerobic interval training in patients with chronic heart failure.
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2008 Nov 15;102:1361-1365. Epub 2008 Sep 11.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a