Enjoy the Highest Quality of Life Possible With Congestive Heart Failure There is no doubt about it, cardiac complications can impact every corner of life, forcing patients to forego activities they previously enjoyed and causing them to feel as though they have sacrificed their life to save it. There are, however, many steps patients can take to allow them to enjoy life even after having been diagnosed with heart failure. Congestive heart failure occurs when the cells of the heart are unable to constrict properly and pump blood through the body. This results in edema throughout the body, particularly in and around the lungs and is the cause of the dyspnea that is typical of heart failure. To counteract this, patients should take any diuretics prescribed by their doctor and maintain a low sodium diet, allowing the excess fluid to leave through the renal system and making it easier for the patient to breathe. Daily exercise is important; it is not necessary that it be vigorous, patients should consult with their physician prior to embarking on an exercise regime to ensure that they will not be taxing their heart unnecessarily. It is possible that if a patient has previously enjoyed activities that put a great deal of strain on the heart they will find it necessary to restrict themselves to less stressful endeavors; however, with the proper precautions many physical activities are still permitted. The heart pumps blood more easily when the body is at rest; therefore, it is essential that patients with heart failure schedule time daily to rest. They may sit and read or watch television, take a nap or meditate; any activity that allows the body time to recharge. Meditation is being considered as a possible method of treatment for patients suffering from heart failure; meditation causes the heart to beat slower, blood pressure to normalize, the muscles to use oxygen more efficiently and the body to produce less adrenaline. All of these factors make it easier for the heart to function. Any patient suffering from heart failure should abstain from smoking. Inhaling nicotine causes the body's blood pressure and heart rate to increase, less oxygen to reach the muscles and an increased clumping and stickiness in blood vessels that may impede blood flow. All of these factors cause the heart to beat harder in an attempt to compensate, placing more stress on an already weak heart. Patients should also avoid flu and pneumonia as much as possible, avoiding crowded areas during cold and flu season and receiving both an annual influenza vaccination and at least one dose of the pneumococcal vaccine (this will provide some protection against pneumococcal bacteria, the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia). The decreased oxygen in the blood resulting from either flu or pneumonia will result in the heart pumping harder in an attempt to compensate. Everything in their life affects a patient's well being when they are suffering from congestive heart failure, right down to their clothing. These patients should avoid restrictive clothing and stockings as much as possible, as these items present an increased risk for clotting and a blockage of blood to the extremities. They should also avoid temperature extremes as much as possible and dress appropriately for the weather; the body must work much harder to maintain temperature when it is either extremely hot or extremely cold. The most beneficial thing that patients suffering from heart failure can do to allow them to enjoy their life is to enjoy their life. The negative effects of stress on the heart are well documented, and patients who live a stress free existence create a much better environment for their heart than those who are unhappy or overworked. So by maintaining a positive mental state, patients are able to help themselves both emotionally and physically.
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