CHF–What is it, what causes it, how to deal with it.

The choice doesn’t get any clearer than this. Change your lifestyle and have a chance at longer productive life or drink/smoke and die young.

Causes of CHF:

Heart attacks due to coronary artery disease are the most common cause of heart failure. Heart attacks can cause scarring and stiffening of the heart muscle, interfering with the heart’s pumping function. Viral or bacterial infections also cause heart failure. In many cases, heart failure is brought on by unknown causes.

Here is a more complete list of the causes of CHF:


Therapies for Congestive Heart Failure


Lifestyle can have a dramatic impact both on the management of heart-failure symptoms and on the pace at which the condition progresses.

Smokers need to quit. Smoking has many adverse effects on the heart and blood vessels. Among other things, it accelerates the progression of coronary heart disease and diminishes the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen to the body.

Exercise is also important to self-care because, done in moderation, it can help the heart pump more efficiently and reduce the demands made on the heart. Light walking, swimming, and bicycling can all help improve cardiac function.


Congestive heart failure requires continuous therapy, and a careful, ongoing dialogue with your physician or nurse clinician. Diet is a critical part of this process. The two most harmful ingredients in a patient’s diet are salt and alcohol. Eating salt forces the body to hold on to water. This water collects in the lungs, legs and abdomen, causing swelling (edema), and making it difficult to breathe. By eliminating salt, you will help rid the extra fluid.


You may hear on the news that 1 or 2 drinks a day is good for the heart. This may be true for coronary artery disease with a normal heart muscle. However, alcohol is harmful for patient’s with congestive heart failure. Alcohol makes the heart more sluggish. This includes all forms of alcohol (beer wine, whiskey, vodka, etc.). Some people have heart failure only because they drink alcohol every day (alcoholic cardiomyopathy). In these cases, the heart muscle function may improve if one stops all alcohol intake.

Some Medications for CHF Can Adversely Interaction with Alcohol

There are five common groups of medications for congestive heart failure, each working in different ways to help the heart:

aldosterone antagonists,

angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors,

beta blockers,

diuretics, and

digoxin (Lanoxin®).

It is recommended that people avoid drinking alcohol if taking the beta blocker propranolol (“INDERAL”) because the combination lowers blood pressure too much.

The new Canadian Heart And Stroke Foundation publication “Managing Your Congestive Heart Failure,” recommends that people with congestive heart failure reduce their alcohol use to no more than one drink per day. This is equal to a glass of wine (5 oz./150 mL/12% alcohol), beer (12 oz./350 mL/ 5% alcohol), or one mixed drink (1 1/2 oz./50 mL/ 40% alcohol).

In some types of heart failure, alcohol must be totally avoided and people should talk with their doctor about alcohol, their medical condition and the medications they are on.

The publication notes, at page 25:

“You need to discuss drinking alcohol with your doctor because:

Alcohol may change how your medication works;

Alcohol can affect other medical conditions you may have;

Alcohol reduces the strength of the heart’s contraction;

Alcohol may cause or worsen irregular heart rhythm.”

Stop Smoking:

Already having been diagnosed with CHF is no reason to not quit smoking.

There is simply no safe way to smoke. Although low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes may reduce the lung cancer risk somewhat, they do not lessen the risks of heart diseases or other smoking related diseases. The only safe and healthful course is not to smoke at all. There is nothing easy about giving up cigarettes.

If you can’t quit the first time, keep trying. Most smokers “slip” three to five times before they quit for good. But as hard as quitting may be, the results are well worth it. In the first year after stopping smoking, the risk of coronary heart problems drops sharply. It then gradually returns to “normal”–that is, the same risk as someone who never smoked. You have been diagnosed with CHF, and quitting smoking won’t cure it, but no matter what your age or health, quitting will lessen your chances of additional health problems.

If you’re living with someone who smokes, realize that the reported dangers of second-hand smoke are real. Their smoking can kill you. As a CHF survivor, this risk needs to be taken seriously….


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