What should you know about taking care of and the duties involved with those who suffer from congestive heart failure?  First you need to understand what congestive heart failure is. Congestive heart failure is when an individual’s heart is weakened and cannot pump efficiently. This causes blood to back up within the heart muscle. Although heart failure can happen to almost anyone at any age, it is more common in those who are over the age of 65. Congestive heart failure is more common in men and in African Americans.

Left Side Failure

This is when the left side of the heart doesn’t pump the blood correctly and it begins to back up into the lungs, this causes the rest of the body to not get enough blood. Symptoms can occur from the effects on the other organs, confusion, dizziness, and fainting can occur if there is poor blood flow to the brain. More of the signs that you need to watch for in left side failure are:
  • Crackles and wheezes in the lungs
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Breathing deeply
  • Cyanosis (bluing discoloration of lips and nail beds)
  • Rapid breathing

Right Side Failure

When the right side of the heart is affected, it backs blood into the venous system. This can cause swelling to occur, especially in the feet and ankles. It can also cause the neck veins to bulge. Fluid can accumulate in the abdomen and in the liver causing congestion to occur. Signs to watch for in those with right side heart failure are those with left side failure, with the exception of a few more.
  • Fluid in the abdomen, which will cause swelling to occur
  • Urine output is less than 500mil in a 24hr period
  • Weight gain

It is important for the patient to notify their health care provider when any of these symptoms occur, even if the changes seem small. These changes even though can seem small can become severe if they are ignored. Patients are educated by their health care professional to do the following tasks and while we are non-medical, we can remind them to make sure they are doing them and help them record the results in a notebook.
  • Weighing a patient at least daily, those who suffer from congestive heart failure will need to be weighed more often.
  • Checking and recording 02 saturation. This may be done several times throughout the day.
  • Blood pressure monitoring.
  • Making sure that the patients are voiding.
  • Applying and making sure that the elastic stocking is placed on and correctly applied if ordered by their healthcare professional.

Diet is extremely important for those who suffer from Congestive Heart Failure. As a general population we tend to consume high amounts of salt in our diets, but for those with Congestive Heart Failure, too much salt can cause additional strain on the heart. Foods that are high in salt (sodium) content are those such as canned foods, processed foods such as cold cuts, fast foods/take-out foods. We should encourage our patients or assist them in reading labels for the sodium content, if they must purchase canned vegetables advise them to rinse the foods to decrease the sodium.

With cardiovascular disease being number 1 in the United States for cause of death and disability, it is essential for us to have an improved knowledge of heart diseases.

Congestive Heart Failure Quiz

    * Required Information

    1. Congestive heart failure is when an individual's heart is weakened and cannot pump efficiently causing blood to back up within the heart muscle.*


    2. Heart failure can happen to almost anyone at any age, though it is more common in those who are over the age of 65.*


    3. Some of the signs of left sided congestive heart failure include, wheezing, coughing, and rapid breathing.*


    4. Weight gain is a sign/symptom of right sided heart failure.*


    5. People with congestive heart failure should have diets high in salt.*