Congestive Heart Failure: What It Isn’t & What You Can Do

lifestyle and medications for congestive heart failureYou’ve probably heard of the term congestive heart failure.  Unless you or a close family member are dealing with this condition, however, you probably don’t know exactly what it means.

The good news is, congestive heart failure (CHF) does not mean your heart has actually failed, or that it’s no longer working.  Still, it is a very serious condition.  Johns Hopkins Medicine tells us that CHF is brought on by one of two factors:  (1) either the heart is not able to contract as well, or (2) a mechanical problem prevents the chambers of the heart from filling with blood.  If the heart is weakened, it can’t keep up with the body’s needs, so blood returns to the heart faster than it is being pumped out.  When this happens, the blood becomes backed up, or congested – thus the name congestive heart failure.

Lifestyle Changes for Those With Congestive Heart Failure

As is the case with many health issues, those who have CHF need to make changes in their lifestyle and habits.  These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Eating healthy foods
  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting moderate exercise
  • Reducing salt intake
  • Drinking minimal amounts of alcohol

Medications to Treat Congestive Heart Failure

For many people who suffer from CHF, medications become a part of daily living.

  • Vasodilators:  One of the first lines of defense for CHF, these medications are prescribed to open blood vessels (which will reduce blood pressure and normalize blood flow).  Brand names include BiDil and Isordil.
  • Diuretics:  Diuretic medications reduce the amount of fluid in the body.  This is helpful for those with CHF because they often suffer from fluid retention.  Brand names include Zaroxolyn, Lasix, and Demadex.
  • Digitalis glycosides:  Commonly called digoxin, these drugs strengthen the heart’s contractions, thereby improving circulation.  Brand names include Digox and  Lanoxin.
  • Anticoagulants:  These medications prevent blood clots, which are not uncommon in CHF patients. Brand names include Heparin and Warfarin.
  • Beta-blockers: This type of medication slows the heart rate.  When the heart is slowed, the main pumping chamber is able to fill more completely.  Beta-blockers also can widen the body’s blood vessels, which reduces the symptoms of congestive heart failure.  Brand names include: Zebeta, Coreg, and Lopressor.
  • ACE inhibitors:  Your body produces a substance called angiotensin II, which narrows your blood vessels.  ACE (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) inhibitor drugs keep your body from producing angiotensin II.  There are many brands of ACE inhibitors on the market.  They include Lotensin, Vasotec, Zestril, and Mavik.
  • Oxygen:  In advanced cases of congestive heart failure, some patients require oxygen.  To administer oxygen, mechanical devices are available for use at home.

If you do have congestive heart failure, the amount of medications prescribed for your treatment can be dizzying.  It’s so important to have a pharmacy team that is competent and caring enough to answer any questions you may have about your drug therapy.  At Brian’s Pharmacies, we want you to consider us part of your team.  We take time for you:  to ensure your medications are correct and safely prescribed, and to discuss any concerns you have about your medication.

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