Taking control of heart failure

Small steps can make a big impact

As many as 5.7 million people in the U.S. have congestive heart failure. Though it sounds like a frightening diagnosis, it doesn’t mean the heart stops beating. Heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to the organs. It’s a serious condition that requires careful management.

“Diseases that damage the heart — including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes — are common causes of heart failure. Smoking, obesity, eating foods high in fat and sodium, and physical inactivity also increase your risk,” said John S. Harris, M.D., a cardiologist with the Norton Heart Care Heart Failure Clinic. “Heart failure becomes more common with age and is one of the most common reasons for admissions to the hospital.”

While heart failure is a chronic condition — meaning it usually does not go away — early diagnosis and treatment can improve quality of life and longevity. Along with taking medication, lifestyle changes are the best treatments for heart failure and

minimizing further damage to the heart. “Making lifestyle changes can be easier said than done,” Dr. Harris said. “We all know

how difficult it is to resist foods we love and get motivated to exercise. But for someone with heart failure, these things could be a matter of life or death, namely reducing salt in the diet and getting daily exercise.”

People with heart failure must track their daily symptoms and discuss them with their physician. Successful treatment requires the patient, his or her family and the physician to work together. To help support individuals with heart failure in making successful lifestyle changes and improving their quality of life, the Heart Failure Clinic at Norton Audubon Hospital works with patients and physicians to help patients feel better and to prevent hospitalizations and worsening of the condition.

“The clinic uses national best practices that have been proven to improve health,” Dr. Harris said. “These include education on nutrition, exercise and medication management; and support to let these folks know they are not alone in this disease.”

The clinic also offers one point of access for IV treatments, referrals to cardiologists and other specialists, home health, physical therapy and other services. It works as a partner with patients’ physicians to offer team-based care.

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure and think you could benefit from the services of the Heart Failure Clinic, talk with your physician.


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