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Heart Failure

  What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure occurs when the heart does not pump strongly enough to meet the needs of the body. If the heart doesn't pump with the force needed, the body's tissues do not get enough oxygen. Your symptoms depend on how weak your heart is and how well your heart failure is controlled. You may have one or all of the following symptoms of heart failure. Or you may have no symptoms at all. Some symptoms are:

    * feeling tired; not able to carry out usual activities
    * shortness of breath, even at rest or when lying flat at night
    * you may need to sleep on 2 to 3 pillows in order to breathe comfortably at night
    * swelling in your ankles, legs and abdomen (belly) or quick weight gain without eating more than usual You              may suddenly gain as much as 2-3 pounds in one day
    * your belly may feel tender or painful and you may have some nausea
    * pounding heart beats or a fast or irregular rhythm at times (especially when lying on your left side)
    * dizziness and weakness; you may even feel faint

What do I need to do to care for myself?

    * Weigh yourself daily, and record your weight. You may be told to limit the amount of fluids you drink. Call the doctor if your ankles or feet become swollen or if you gain 2-3 pounds in one day or more than 5 pounds in 5 days.
    * Eat healthy. Read food labels for fat and sodium content. Fresh, natural foods usually have less salt, cholesterol or fats.
    * Know when to rest. STOP when you are tired, clammy, dizzy or experiencing chest pain or discomfort.
    * Don't smoke! Avoid all types of tobacco.
    * If possible, learn to take your pulse and blood pressure, or have them checked regularly.

Why do heart failure patients usually need to take several medications?

Medications are needed for many reasons. The medicines you are taking will most likely include:

    * ACE Inhibitors: These drugs lower blood pressure and open and relax blood vessels.
    * Vasodilators: These drugs lower blood pressure as well as open and relax blood vessels.
    * Diuretics or Water Pills: These drugs help the body get rid of extra water and salt.
    * Digoxin: Helps the heart pump better

Your doctor may order other medicines for you and it is very important to take your them as directed and to report any unusual side effects.
Keep track of your medicines and when you take them. Call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about your prescriptions.

When do I need to call my health care provider?

Call your doctor or other health care provider when you notice:

    * Weight gain of 2-3 pounds in one day
    * Shortness of breath
    * Increase in fatigue
    * Swelling in your ankles or belly


    * Faintness or dizziness
    * Changes in pulse and blood pressure
    * Pounding heart beat
    * If you have chest pain—call 911!