Have you ever wondered what it means when someone has “Congestive Heart Failure,” or “Heart Failure?”

According to the American Heart Association, “Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs for blood and oxygen.” Basically, heart failure happens when your heart can't keep up with its workload.

Your heart is an amazing muscle, and it will try to keep up with the demand your body requires. Your heart rate increases to keep up with demands of walking, breathing, and other daily activities, while keeping blood pumping to your brain, lungs, liver, and kidneys. Your body depends on the heart's pumping action to deliver oxygen, and nutrient-rich blood, to the body's cells. When the cells are nourished properly, the body can function normally.

Heart Failure happens when the heart and body just can't keep up. The blood it should be pumping gets backed up in the veins leading to the heart, and that can result in swelling or fluid accumulation”often in the legs and ankles. You then may experience fatigue, breathing problems or other symptoms that usually prompt a trip to the doctor.

The body does a great job of compensating; this may help explain why some people may not become aware of their condition until years after their heart begins its decline. This is why it's important to have regular checkups with your provider.

The risk factors for the development of heart failure are:

With heart failure, the weakened heart can't supply the cells with enough blood causing everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs, or carrying groceries, to become very difficult.

Heart failure is a serious condition, and usually there's no cure.  But many people with heart failure lead a full, enjoyable life when the condition is managed with medications and lifestyle changes. It's also helpful to have the support of family and friends who understand your condition.

At the EIRMC Heart Failure Clinic, in the Wellness Center, a cardiologist and nurse practitioner coordinate individualized care that supports both the physical and mental well-being of heart failure patients, with a focus on minimizing symptoms and decreasing hospitalizations. For more information about the EIRMC Heart Failure Clinic, call (208) 535-4200.

- Contributed by Lesli Christofferson, MSN, FNP-BC, EIRMC Wellness Clinic — Heart Failure

For more information on heart failure, or to learn the basic principles for maintaining heart health, attend EIRMC's second instalment of the Healthy Living Series, “A Healthy Heart at Any Age,” presented by Lesli Christofferson, Heart Failure NP at the EIRMC Wellness Center.  RSVP for this free class (held on Feb. 12) by calling 227-2778.

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