Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure means your heart is not pumping blood effectively enough to meet the needs of your body. It is sometimes called congestive heart failure because congestion of the lungs causes some of the main symptoms of heart failure.

Warning Signs

Sudden Weight Gain: Keep a daily written record of your weight. A steady increase in weight with no change in diet could be a sign of fluid retention, and you should bring this to your doctor’s attention.  Use the same scale, weigh at the same time, and weigh with the same amount of clothing each time.

Swelling: You may notice puffiness in your hands, ankles, feet or abdomen. If you can press your finger into your skin and the print remains briefly or you see marks from the elastic in your socks or from your rings, raising your feet up or resting hands on pillows above your heart may help.

Difficulties Breathing: If you feel short of breath, stop what you're doing and rest until you feel better. If after sleeping you feel short of breath, try sitting up and dangling your legs over the bedside and moving your feet to help with circulation. Standing and walking increases circulation.
Diet Guidelines
Avoiding salt (or sodium) is usually the most important dietary tip to remember.  Use only a very small amount of salt during cooking. Don't add salt at the table.  Try to avoid foods high in sodium such as processed or preserved foods.  Consult your doctor before using a salt substitute.  Eat small, frequent meals (4–6 times per day).  Before drinking any alcoholic beverages, check with your doctor.  Constipation is a common problem after a procedure. Stay on a heart healthy diet and let your doctor know if constipation becomes a problem for you.
Medication Guidelines
Take all of your medications as instructed by your doctor.  Do not skip doses or take extra medicines.  Don't take another person's medicines.  Do not take over-the-counter drugs and/or home remedies when taking prescription medicines.  Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medications.
When to Call us
Call your doctor's office if you notice new swelling of ankles, feet, hands or abdomen, fainting, weight gain of more than 4 pounds per week  unless your doctor states otherwise.  Having to sleep propped up on more pillows or waking up because of shortness of breath.  Frequently getting up during the night to urinate.  Sudden increase in shortness of  breath.  More blueness of lips or skin under fingernails.  Other symptoms to report to your doctor are tiredness & loss of appetite, lightheadedness, dizziness or weakness, muscle spasms or cramping, nausea or vomiting, a dry, persistent cough, or a change in vision such as yellow-green halos or double vision.
When to Call 911
Call 911 for fainting, black-outs, chest pain not relieved by nitroglycerin, or extreme shortness of breath.

Reducing your Risk

Stop Smoking: Ask your doctor about medication to help you stop. It is important to decrease the workload of your heart by stopping smoking. For help, contact Providence Stop Smoking Classes at 212-3011 or the American Lung Association at 276-5864.

Stress: The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program offers a stress management program.
High blood pressure: High blood pressure also increases the workload of  your heart. If you are on high blood pressure medicine, take it regularly per instructions.
Also, make heart healthy foods a part of your regular diet!
  • Stop Smoking Class - 212-3011
  • Providence Nutrition Center - 212-3089
  • American Heart Association - 563-3111
  • Providence Weight Loss/Heart Smart Alaska - 212-3011
  • American Lung Association - 276-5864