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Keys to Managing Congestive Heart Failure

Challenging. Complex. Sometimes frightening. Congestive heart failure (CHF) can be all of these. Now add to that list, manageable.

When patients become knowledgeable about CHF and take an active role in their own treatment, they help themselves feel better and enjoy a better quality of life.

According to Reneé Sangrigoli,MD, a Doylestown Hospital cardiologist who specializes in heart failure treatment, one of the most important keys to managing CHF is education. “When patients understand their condition and the reasons behind the many aspects of the treatment plan, they’re much better equipped to manage this complex cardiac problem.”

Know the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of Medication
“A person with a diagnosis of heart failure may be prescribed between three and six medications a day,” says Dr. Sangrigoli, “and that can be hard to accept and manage. But when patients understand what the medications do and how they work together to treat different aspects of heart failure, it begins to make sense.” For example...


  • Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors improve survival by relaxing the arteries and making it easier for the heart to pump.


  • Beta-blockers also improve survival by blocking certain blood chemicals that can increase the heart rate and damage the heart.


  • Diuretics (water pills) cause the kidneys to remove extra sodium and fluid from the body, which decreases the work load of the heart.


  • Potassium and magnesium supplements replenish the body’s store of these minerals,which can be depleted through diuretic use.


  • Digoxin makes the heart squeeze more forcefully.


  • Nitrates relieve chest pain by relaxing arteries and veins.


  • Warfarin decreases the risk of blood clot formation.


  • Aspirin thins the blood and decreases the risk of future heart attacks.

    Join the Treatment Team
    In addition to taking the right medications, successfully managing CHF depends a lot on a patient’s involvement in the treatment plan.That’s because a person with heart failure will almost certainly need to...


  • avoid salt and limit fluid intake so the heart doesn’t have to work harder to move extra fluid through the body.


  • limit intake of alcohol to avoid further heart damage and interference with medications.


  • control blood pressure to avoid putting extra strain on the heart.


  • exercise as recommended by the doctor to strengthen the heart.


  • get enough rest so the heart has a chance to relax.

    Stay Alert to Warning Signs
    Sometimes, in spite of careful compliance with the treatment plan,patients with heart failure will experience symptom flare-ups such as shortness of breath, swollen ankles, weight gain and fatigue. “It’s important that we know about these warning signs as soon as possible,” says Dr. Sangrigoli. “That way we can treat the patient aggressively to get past the flare-ups and prevent further progression of the disease.”

    A well-informed and actively participating patient can have a tremendously positive impact on his or her quality of life. Says Dr. Sangrigoli, “The medical community can offer heart failure patients the latest medication and medical devices, and physicians can provide expert care and guidance.But in many respects, the power resides in the patient.”

    Dr. Reneé Sangrigoli is a board-certified cardiologist and a member of Central Bucks Specialists – Heart and Vascular.

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    Review Date: August 19, 2010
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