We only have one, and it’s perhaps the most critical organ in the human body – so hearing the news that our heart is “failing” is distressing. Congestive heart failure, or CHF, affects nearly six million people in the U.S. alone, according to research by the CDC. And even though it is a chronic illness, there are recommendations people can follow to slow the advancement and manage the effects of heart failure in seniors.
What Can Cause CHF?
Generally speaking, CHF is the product of a weakening of the heart from issues such as:
- Heart attack
- Coronary heart disease
- Cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle)
- Malfunctioning heart valves
- Congenital heart defects
- Myocarditis (swelling of the heart muscle)
- Heart arrhythmias
- Thyroid disease
- And various other chronic illnesses
What Are the Stages of CHF?
There are 4 main stages of congestive heart failure:
Individuals at risk for developing congestive heart failure as a result of having a family history of cardiomyopathy, early coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes are considered in the earliest stage of the disease. At this stage, lifestyle changes are important to stop CHF from developing. This could include exercise, dietary changes, and medication.
In this stage, there are some signs of changes to the heart that could lead to CHF. There could have been a preceding heart attack or heart valve disease, or elevated blood pressure might be diminishing heart health. Treatment includes the lifestyle adjustments for Stage A, and also possible surgery or other treatment for heart valve disease, heart attack, or artery blockage.
Stage C is considered the first stage in which CHF is officially diagnosed. Symptoms include inflammation in the legs, shortness of breath (including after awakening or getting up from lying down), and the inability to exercise. Cardiac rehabilitation and medications can help enhance quality and duration of life for those in Stage C.
When a person reaches Stage D, the options include a heart transplant or mechanical heart pump. It is imperative to see a heart specialist as soon as possible upon receiving a Stage D CHF diagnosis to determine the optimum treatment plan.
How to Live With Congestive Heart Failure
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends moderately strenuous aerobic activity for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week, for maximum heart health. Still, it is important to check with the doctor for specific recommendations. In particular, note that exercising should never result in breathlessness for those with CHF.
Other important lifestyle modifications to slow the advancement of the disease include:
- Observing a low- or reduced-salt diet
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
- Keeping a healthy body weight
- Keeping blood pressure levels under control
- Getting enough sleep
- Minimizing stress
How Home Care Can Help Manage Congestive Heart Failure in Seniors
A skilled caregiver can make a huge difference in the quality of life for a person with CHF. A few of the numerous ways they can provide support include:
- Grocery shopping and preparing heart-healthy meals
- Providing transportation to doctor appointments
- Motivating and encouraging the senior to stick to a fitness program
- Making sure medications are taken exactly how and when they are prescribed
- Providing friendly companionship to alleviate isolation and loneliness
- Plus much more
Get in touch with Inspired Home Care, one of the top homecare agencies in Chicago and the surrounding areas, at 847-787-7572 to learn more about how our trusted senior care services can make every day the very best it can be for someone with CHF.