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What is Heart Failure?

Many people mistakenly believe that heart failure means that the heart has stopped or is about to stop. Heart failure simply means that the heart is not pumping blood through the body as well as it should. As the heart's pumping action weakens, blood backs up into the blood vessels around the lungs and causes seepage into the lungs. The fluid causes congestion and makes it hard to breathe. Many people with heart failure also have swollen legs and feet. That is why heart failure is sometimes called congestive heart failure.

Heart failure is a serious illness that can affect how long you live. You may have heard that some people may die sooner because of heart failure. But with proper medications in the right doses and careful management, you can live longer and feel better.

In most case, heart failure can't be cured, but it can be brought under control with careful work on your part. Careful management means that you should:

  • Take all of the medicines ordered by your doctor or nurse.
  • Follow a low-sodium (salt) diet.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Remain physically active.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Drink alcohol sparingly, if at all.

You should also check yourself every day for signs that your heart failure is getting worse. You should:

  • Weigh yourself.
  • Look for swelling.

These things may seem hard to do. But your active input in the treatment plan is essential. This series of modules will give you many tips and ideas to make it easier for you to take control of your condition.

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