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  Self-care to prevent heart failure
  09-29-2011
 

A heart attacks occurs when the supply to the heart vessels gets blocked, damaging the muscles for life. If not treated in time, it leads to heart muscle damage and can cause heart failure, dangerous cardiac rhythms, even sudden death.

It can occur due to weakness of the heart muscles, valvular defects or even by failure of the heart to relax when it is enlarged or stiff. Elevated filling pressures leads to salt and water accumulation in the body. Today, Dr. (Col.) Anil Dhall, Interventional Cardiologist, Director and Head, Department of Cardiology at Artemis Hospital takes us through the self-care tips for heart failure.

Eat less sodium (salt) each day. Too much salt can lead to water retention in the blood, so it's best to use it in moderation. Talk to your doctor before turning to salt substitutes as they may be high in potassium, which can be dangerous for people with heart failure.

Weigh yourself every day at the same time. Rapid weight gain at an early age is a warning sign that the body is retaining salt and fluids. It is an evidence that the patient's condition is worsening or that medication needs to be adjusted. Alert your doctor at once if you gain more than three pounds in a single day or five pounds in a week (or whatever amount specified by the doctor).

Check and record your blood pressure and pulse rate each day. High blood pressure can cause irreparable damage to heart & blood vessels silently. So, managing weight, eating a healthy diet, and ditching alcohol & smoking can drastically control high blood pressure.

Balance physical activity with rest. A fitness regime is necessary if you want to avoid future ailments. However, people with advanced heart failure often find they have trouble breathing while lying down. If you have this problem, try propping yourself up with an extra pillow or two. Your goal should be to get a full eight hours of sleep a night. If you feel tired during the day, try napping after lunch. Putting your feet up for a few minutes every couple of hours can give your heart a rest too.

Take all the medications that you are prescribed to keep your heart safe. Strict adherence to the prescribed drug regimen is vitally important for people with heart failure, even those with advanced stages of the illness. They reduce hospitalizations and save lives.

Stop smoking and avoid alcohol. Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide and many other toxins, which interfere with the heart's ability to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Alcohol weakens the heart's pumping ability. Too much alcohol can cause heart failure and aggravate existing cases of the disease.

Know when to call a doctor. Symptoms like rapid weight gain of several pounds within a few days, increased swelling, more difficulty breathing, decreased urination, and giddiiness should be taken very seriously.

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