Heart Failure

Heart Failure

Heart failure means that the heart cannot pump as much blood as it should to the rest of the body's other organs. There are many ways to treat its symptoms and live a productive life. Even making one small change in your lifestyle, such as taking a daily walk, or choosing a salad instead of French fries, can help you live a healthier life. 

Individuals who experience heart failure can trust their medical care to Floyd Medical Center. The American Heart Association has recognized Floyd Medical Center for achieving 85 percent or higher compliance with all Get With The GuidelinesĀ®-Heart Failure Achievement Measures for 24 consecutive months to improve quality of patient care and outcomes. This means that you can expect care that is consistent with the latest scientific guidelines from the American Heart Association.

What is Heart Failure?
Symptoms of Heart Failure
Treating Heart Failure
Managing Heart Failure at Home
When to Call the Doctor or Go to the Emergency Care Center (ECC)
Planning for Future Health Care Needs

What is Heart Failure?

When a person has heart failure, it means their heart pumps blood but not as well as a healthy heart. This weak pumping can cause problems in many parts of the body. Heart failure prevents the kidneys from working normally. They may not be able to rid your body of excess fluid. This fluid can back up in other parts of your body, resulting in swelling of the ankles and legs, called edema.

Fluid also collects in the lungs, which can cause shortness of breath. The brain also receives less blood, which can cause dizziness or confusion. 

Symptoms of Heart Failure

These are the most common symptoms of heart failure:

  • Shortness of breath during rest, exercise or while lying down
  • Weight gain
  • Visible swelling of the legs and ankles (due to a buildup of fluid), and, occasionally, swelling of the abdomen
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain
  • Persistent cough

The severity of heart failure and its symptoms depends on how much of the heart's pumping capacity has been damaged.

Treating Heart Failure

Treatment of heart failure may include:

  • Controlling risk factors:
    • Quitting smoking
    • Losing weight, if overweight, and increasing moderate exercise
    • Restricting salt and fat from the diet
    • Avoiding alcohol
    • Proper rest
    • Controlling blood sugar, if diabetic
    • Controlling blood pressure
    • Limiting fluids
  • Medication
  • Biventricular pacing/cardiac resynchronization therapy. This type of pacemaker paces both pumping chambers of the heart simultaneously to coordinate contractions and to improve the heart's function. Some heart failure patients are candidates for this therapy.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator. This device is similar to a pacemaker. It senses when the heart is beating too fast and delivers an electrical shock to convert the fast rhythm to a normal rhythm.
  • Heart transplant
  • Ventricular assist devices (VADs). These are mechanical devices used to take over the pumping function for one or both of the heart's ventricles, or pumping chambers. A VAD may be necessary when heart failure progresses to the point that medications and other treatments are no longer effective.

Managing Heart Failure at Home

Individuals with heart failure must learn to take care of themselves at home. Remember that making just one change to your diet or your activity can help you feel better. Use a notebook or use this downloadable Heart Health Record page to write down your daily:

  • Weight
  • Liquid intake
  • Diet
  • Blood pressure

Weigh yourself every day, preferably at the same time. If you gain more than two pounds in a day or five pounds in a week, call your doctor.

The amount of liquid that a heart failure patient can have is typically limited. This liquid includes not only drinks such as water, tea or  coffee, but also anything that is liquid at room temperature such as popsicles or soup. Your doctor will tell you how much you can have.

Remove salt from your diet. This includes not salting your food when you cook or when you sit down to eat, and also not eating processed foods, such as crackers or chips. Write down what you eat and drink. This will help you and your doctor to know if you are gaining weight or experiencing other symptoms because of something you ate.

Keep track of your blood pressure, and write down your numbers.

The American Heart Association recommends managing your heart failure by making small changes 

When to Call the Doctor or Go to the Emergency Care Center (ECC)

In addition to tracking what you eat and drink, and keeping a record of your blood pressure and weight, you should also write down any symptoms, such as swelling in your feet or legs, and difficulty breathing, and how you are feeling each day.

Take this written record with you when you go to the doctor. Also, use this written information to determine if you need to take action on your heart failure symptoms. Using the Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light Action Plan, you will know whether you need to call your doctor or go to the hospital.

Planning for Future Health Care Needs 

Heart failure is an ongoing illness. As with any illness, it is important to plan for the time when you may not be able to speak or make decisions for yourself.

An advance directive allows you to write down the medical treatments that you would and would not want to receive. You can also state who you would want to make health care decisions for you, if you cannot.

Your health care team can help you and your family discuss these difficult issues and plan the treatments you want to receive. To learn more about completing an advance directive, visit our Advanced Care Planning page or email us.


Floyd Medical Center

Contact Us

For more information on heart failure, call 706.509.6354 or email us.


Heart Failure Advanced Certification Floyd