Preventing Heart Failure
Heart failure is a term that sounds like the heart has failed, but what it means is that the heart is not pumping blood and oxygen as well as it used to. Because of this, oxygen will not be transmitted to the body as needed. While heart failure is a serious, incurable condition, it can be managed through health and lifestyle changes. By implementing these changes, patients can live a long and happy life.
UNC Lenoir Health Care is here to help with those managing heart failure, and we want you to achieve your best life. We believe that Failure is NOT an Option.
There are symptoms of heart failure that you should know. These include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Weight gain
- Abdominal swelling and discomfort
If you have symptoms and are concerned about heart failure, it is important to contact your physician right away. Heart failure can advance quickly, and some symptoms may indicate further heart issues. For a more comprehensive list of possible symptoms, check out UNC Lenoir Health Care’s page on Heart Failure Care. If you do not have a trusted physician, UNC Lenoir Health Care can match you with a practitioner from our fantastic cardiology team. World-class care close to home is the hallmark of UNC Lenoir Health Care.
Some symptoms of heart failure mirror those of a heart attack. If you have any symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
To diagnose heart failure, your doctor will perform a physical exam. Other tests that your doctor may perform include a blood test, chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, an MRI, or a stress test. If you are diagnosed with heart failure, your doctor will classify it into one of four categories:
- Class I: asymptomatic
- Class II: able to perform everyday activities without difficulty but become winded or fatigued when you exert yourself
- Class III: trouble completing everyday activities
- Class IV: short of breath even at rest
After your doctor classifies your heart failure, you will work together to create a plan of action to strengthen your heart and get it pumping optimally again. There measures you can take, which include eating a heart-healthy diet, limiting your intake of salt, and exercising smartly to strengthen the heart without overly straining it. Other measures include watching your weight, limiting fluid intake to 1.5-2 liters daily (including soups, ice cream, Jell-O, and some fruits like melons, grapes, and oranges), taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications, and conserving your strength to prevent fatigue.
It is particularly important to keep a keen eye on your health and any symptoms post-diagnosis. If you experience any new symptoms or you have a significant change in how you feel and your energy level, call your doctor. Any new symptoms may require a change in activity, medication, diet, or other treatment plans.
If you are currently dealing with heart failure, the resources on UNC Lenoir Health Care’s Failure is NOT an Option website will be helpful to you. There is information about heart failure, a video library, and a downloadable heart health workbook with valuable content to help you manage and track your condition.
In order to have the best results after heart failure, you should contact your doctor and report symptoms immediately so you can begin work with your team to assess and diagnose your condition and implement a treatment plan. If you currently have symptoms and you are not working with a heart specialist, please contact UNC Lenoir Health Care at 252.522.7000 for a referral. With heart failure, Failure is NOT an Option.