Living with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure, or CHF, means your heart muscle does not pump blood as well as it should. This makes it weaker than normal. Typically, CHF occurs as a result of a heart attack (and the damage to the heart). It can also happen because of ongoing high blood pressure.
There are many symptoms of CHF, including:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing with or without activity 
  • Problems with breathing when lying down
  • Weakness or fatigue 
  • Swelling of the abdomen, feet, and ankles
  • Weight gain 
  • Irregular or rapid pulse
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Loss of appetite or indigestion
  • Decreased concentration or alertness 
  • Decreased urine production or need to urinate at night
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

How is CHF treated?

Your doctor will determine your medical treatment after diagnosing heart failure. Your treatment may include reducing risks that affect your heart (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other conditions). It may also include taking medicines to lighten the workload of your heart, eliminate extra fluid in your body, and treat your particular type of heart disease.

There are three common prescription medications that are important to help manage symptoms.

  1.  Furosemide, water pill, or other diuretic – Removes extra fluid from the body.
  2.  ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitor or, for some patients, an ARB (angiotensin receptor blocker) – Relieves symptoms and may improve the health of your heart.
  3.  Beta blocker – Lowers your blood pressure and heart rate, and reduces the stress on your heart.

Your doctor may also have you on a low dose of Aspirin daily (81 mg per day). Many patients additionally take a statin medication for their cholesterol management.

6 important tips for your CHF management

CHF is considered “chronic”  (ongoing or constant). You may always have CHF. But you can manage it so that you can still enjoy many, if not all, of your usual activities. Here are six easy CHF management tips:

  1.   Take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor and report any side effects.
  2.   Weigh yourself daily to watch your fluid retention—a sign that your heart is not working as well as it should.
  3.   Cut back on salt. Salt makes your body retain fluids and causes your heart to work harder.
  4.   Stay active to help strengthen your heart muscle.
  5.   Ask your doctor about getting the flu and pneumonia vaccines. Contracting these illnesses can worsen CHF.
  6.   Always contact your doctor when you have any questions about symptoms.

We offer special programs to help patients manage chronic conditions such as CHF. Your Optum team of doctors, nurses, care managers and educators will work with you to develop a personalized disease management plan. Our team will teach you to watch for symptoms, and give you strategies for dealing with your health challenges. We emphasize instruction and education. That way, when your symptoms appear, you can quickly contact us for treatment and support. And no matter where you need care—at home, in the hospital, at a skilled nursing facility—we make sure you get the right care in the right place at the right time.

To learn more about how we can help you manage CHF, find an Optum doctor today.