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Get The Facts About Congestive Heart Failure

A heart attack likely tops your list of heart problems.

While knowing how to prevent a heart attack is something everyone should be aware of, there is a lesser-known condition that affects about 6.2 million adults in the United States.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic condition that affects your heart muscles — and it’s ability to pump blood or fill with blood. Millions of Americans are living with the disease, but many people don’t know the difference between CHF and a heart attack.

The conditions may sound similar, but each represents a different health risk, causes and treatments.

Your heart stops beating when you have CHF.

FICTION: CHF occurs when your heart muscle or valves are damaged. Your heart is unable to pump blood efficiently, and blood backs up into the lungs. Your heart is also unable to supply the body’s cells with enough nutrients and oxygen. The causes of CHF include:

  • Heart attacks
  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Diabetes
  • Drugs, such as cocaine and alcohol
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • High blood pressure
  • Low blood count
  • Lung disease
  • Thyroid disease

CHF can kill.

FACT: CHF can be fatal, but you can get effective treatments and ease symptoms by making healthy lifestyle changes. Symptoms include:

  • Anorexia/loss of appetite
  • Awakening short of breath at night
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Need for increased pillows at night
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of feet and legs (also sometimes in the abdomen)
  • Weight gain

Weight gain can indicate the body is retaining fluid, making the heart work harder.

CHF is untreatable.

FICTION: There are many effective treatments for CHF that help reduce symptoms and delay its progression. These treatments involve: 

  • Eating a healthy, low-salt diet
  • Losing weight
  • Modifying fluid intake

People with CHF can’t exercise. 

FICTION: People with CHF must exercise, but they shouldn’t overdo it. Exercise alleviates symptoms and improves blood flow. The general recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate activity a minimum of five days a week. Evidence also suggests cardiac rehabilitation programs are effective. Start slow and gradually build up.

A CHF diagnosis doesn't mean you can't lead an enjoyable life. Tanner Heart & Vascular Specialists’ Congestive Heart Failure Clinic is designed to provide Tanner Medical Group (TMG) patients with education and support to manage the disease. Learn more about the CHF clinic now or call 770-812-9326.

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