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Heart and Vascular


Issue 3: Heart Failure

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Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
What is Heart Failure?
Medical Minute: Heart Failure Clinic
Healthy Cooking with ProMedica- Beefy Burrito
Find a Cardiologist

What is Heart Failure?

Lester Griesinger is one of the 5.8 million people in the United States who copes with heart failure every day. This long-term condition, also called congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body.

Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Lester, 55 years old, had open-heart surgery in 2010 and was diagnosed with heart failure this summer. In July, he was admitted to ProMedica Flower Hospital and 10 days later discharged to a skilled nursing facility. His health is now monitored with weekly visits to the ProMedica Heart Failure Clinic, where he works with a team of skilled nurses to develop and execute a plan to manage his heart failure and diabetes.

Many factors contributed to Lester’s risk for heart failure. His family history includes both heart failure and diabetes. He also smoked and struggled to maintain a healthy weight.

“When we first started working with Mr. Griesinger in the clinic, we took a team approach – as we do with all our patients – to teach him about his condition,” said Latina Amick, CNP, ProMedica Heart Failure Clinic. Education about heart failure is just as important as the medications used to treat it. “By coaching Lester one-on-one and providing him with a heart failure binder to store all of his records, we were able to tailor a plan that best fit his learning style.”

Lester’s personalized plan included guidelines on how to eat, manage his 29 medications – and most importantly – quit smoking.

“I kept track of my weight, but not my blood pressure,” said Lester. “I never read a label at a grocery store. Now, I read the label first. If it’s over 150 -200 mg of salt, I don’t eat it. I also recently quit smoking.”

Lester has learned how to reduce his sodium and fluid intake to manage the fluid retention that often comes with heart failure. Thanks to these efforts, he has lost more than 30 pounds of excess fluid since he was discharged from the hospital in July. In addition, his nurses have noticed he can breathe easier — and breathing easier makes moving around easier too.

His nurses at the heart failure clinic recognize and encourage the importance of taking control of your personal wellness. With frequent medication changes and doctor's visits, most people with heart failure struggle to do this alone.

“When patients start to see improvements in their own health, it greatly affects their self-esteem and confidence. They feel like they have control over their lives again,” said Latina.

And, that’s definitely true for Lester.

“There was a lot of information I did not know. I have learned so much through the videos the nurses have shown me. They have been so helpful when working with me,” he said.

“By following their advice and working with them, I can walk and exercise easier. I am more mobile and have more energy.”

People who are 65 years old and older, African American, overweight, or have had a heart attack have a higher risk of developing heart failure. Men are also more likely to have heart failure than women.

Although there is no cure for heart failure, it can be managed with lifestyle changes and medicine.

Why do people with heart failure retain fluid?

Their weakened heart pumps less blood out to their body- including their kidneys. The kidneys sense the reduced blood volume in the body and do their job: they hold onto salt and water. The kidneys are fooled into thinking the body needs more of its fluid to stay healthy. Unfortunately, this leads to the body holding onto too much fluid. The extra fluid ultimately builds up in the lungs causing shortness of breath and in the legs causing swelling.

Learn more about heart failure by downloading the ProMedica heart health fact card

Visit our health library on ProMedica.org

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Return to Heart and Vascular Issue 3 newsletter articles