Guest post provided by registered nurse Lydia Nabwami.
Being diagnosed with heart failure can be frightening for you and your loved ones. To many people, the word heart failure sounds like the heart no longer works or having a broken heart and life coming to an end. It can raise all sorts of questions about what you can and can’t do and what your future is going to be like. However, having heart failure means that for some reason your heart is not pumping enough blood around the body to meet the body’s demands for blood and oxygen.
Why Heart Failure Happens
The most common reason heart failure occurs according to British Heart Foundation (BHF) is because your heart muscle has been damaged. Examples of how your heart becomes damaged are, after a heart attack and other heart conditions such as coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.
Symptoms of Heart Failure
Living with heart failure, you will experience the following symptoms:
Shortness of Breath – You will have shortness of breath during everyday activities like walking, while at rest or sleeping which may be sudden and wake you up. You will often feel anxious and restless and have difficulty breathing while lying flat. To help this, you can to prop up the upper body and head on two pillows. Shortness of breath happens because the heart can’t keep up with the supply of blood, therefore, it causes fluid to leak into the lungs. If this fluid is left unmanaged, it can build and spread to your stomach area and sit beneath your lungs. This reduces the lung’s ability to expand and makes you short of breath.
Swelling of your extremities- Swelling of your feet, ankles, legs, stomach, lower back areas and weight gain are not uncommon symptoms. Swelling happens because as blood flows out of the heart, it slows down. The blood coming back to the heart through the veins backs up causing fluid to build up in the body tissues.
Generalized weakness- You may feel unusually tired or weak most times and find it difficult with everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs, shopping. Weakness happens because the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet all the needs of the body tissues. The body diverts blood away from less vital organs, particularly muscles in the limbs, and sends it to the heart and brain.
Managing Heart Failure
Heart failure is a long-term condition, and usually, there’s no cure. You can do a few things to help cope with the condition.
Learn how to manage symptoms – The best thing you can do is to learn how to manage your symptoms and keep your condition under control. Symptom management is different for everyone but will help you do many of the things you enjoy in life.
Find Support in Family and Friends – It’s helpful to have the support of family and friends who understand your condition. Talking openly and honestly to them about how you feel can be a great source of both practical and emotional support that can help you all move forward.
Take your Medicine as Prescribed – The British Heart Foundation recommends managing your heart failure medication as prescribed to control your symptoms.
Make Small Changes – BHF also recommends making some small changes in life and coming to terms with these changes. For example, getting some help with housework, changing jobs to something suitable for you will help you feel more in control and make your health your number one priority.
Heart failure is a very frightening heart condition with various unpleasant symptoms. Getting organized, coming to terms with the condition and taking control of your heart condition are very important factors in managing heart failure.
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