Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Congestive Heart Failure

I have congestive heart failure. What is it?

Your heart has lost some ability to pump blood. This can cause shortness of breath, weakness and fluid buildup. Congestive heart failure (CHF) is serious, but many treatments can help you feel better. If you know a lot about CHF, you have a good chance of staying out of the hospital.

What causes CHF?

The most common causes of CHF are:

What can I do to help my CHF?

Salt and salty foods (like canned vegetables or soups, chips and pizza) in your diet can cause your body to retain water. Talk to your doctor about salt substitutes because they contain potassium and may not be a good idea for you to take. This will depend on your kidney function and what drugs you are taking. Some people need extra potassium but other people don’t.

Although drinking a small amount of alcohol (one drink a day) seems to be helpful in some people with heart disease, drinking too much may cause heart failure and interfere with medicines. Ask your doctor if any amount of alcohol is safe for you.

Keep your blood pressure well controlled. High blood pressure strains your heart and further weakens it.

You’ll be healthier if you exercise. Ask your doctor to recommend an exercise program for you.

Talk to your doctor before you take any medicine. Common arthritis medicines like naproxen (brand name: Naprosyn) and ibuprofen (brand name: Advil) can cause fluid retention.

When should I call my doctor?

Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following: