Carolinas HealthCare System
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Health Tip: Heart Failure

Contact Information

Ardsley Internal Medicine
Phone: 704-403-8650
Fax: 704-403-8655

Ardsley Internal Medicine-Harrisburg
Phone: 704-454-7360
Fax: 704-454-7377

Hours of Operation

Monday - Friday
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (No weekends)

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Heart failure affects nearly five million Americans of all ages. More than 400,000 new cases of heart failure are diagnosed each year. Many people are not aware they have it.

What is Heart Failure?

Despite the way it sounds, heart failure doesn't mean the heart has stopped working or that you are about to die. Heart failure is actually a common condition that usually develops slowly as the heart muscle weakens and needs to work harder to keep blood flowing through the body. Heart failure develops following damage to the heart as in a heart attack, long-term high blood pressure or abnormal heart valves.

The weakened heart muscle must work harder to keep up with the demands of the body. If this happens fluid can be retained in the extremities or lungs. Today, with the use of medications we can keep heart failure from getting worse. Symptoms of heart failure:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Weight gain with possible swelling in legs and ankles from fluid retention
  • General fatigue/weakness

Risk Factors for Heart Failure:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Damage to heart valves
  • Enlargement of the heart
  • Diabetes

Diagnosing Heart Failure

Only your health care provider can tell if you have heart failure. To make the diagnosis they will review your history and conduct a full physical exam. Additionally, some simple tests will be performed. One test, the Echocardiogram can give information about how well your heart is pumping. Remember, early diagnosis and treatment are very important.

Living with Heart Failure

There are many things you can do if you have been diagnosed with heart failure:

  • Take your medications as directed
  • Limit intake of salt and salty food like ham, luncheon meats, pickles, olives, canned soups, TV dinners and fast foods
  • Weigh daily and contact your healthcare provider if weight changes significantly
  • Exercise as directed by your healthcare provider to keep fit and well
  • See your healthcare provider regularly
  • Make sure you and your family understands heart failure, what the symptoms are and what you should do if your symptoms change
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