Congestive Heart Failure Clinic

Congestive Heart Failure Clinic

Iowa Heart Center's Congestive Heart Failure Clinic helps people with congestive heart failure take charge of their lives. Congestive heart failure is a condition caused by a malfunctioning heart that is unable to pump enough blood and oxygen to meet the body's needs.

Through education, counseling and timely physical assessments, patients can frequently avoid costly hospital stays.

Helping yourself

Heart failure patients can help themselves in a number of ways. The most important thing is to take the medications a physician has prescribed. Iowa Heart Center's Congestive Heart Failure Clinic is designed to help patients by offering:

  • Regular clinic visits where progress and key metrics (weight, blood pressure, etc.) are tracked
  • Education to prevent recurrent hospitalizations and to decrease the length of stay when in the hospital
  • Assessment of symptoms at an early stage
  • Guidance and emotional support, 24 hours a day
  • Dietary counseling

What you can do

It is very important to take all medications that are prescribed. They'll help the heart pump more efficiently and, as a result, help alleviate the shortness of breath and swelling in the hands, stomach and feet.

Secondly, patients should weigh themselves each morning on the same scale, and at the same time of day (ideally, after the morning urination and before breakfast). Patients gaining three or more pounds overnight should call the clinic.

Medications have been prescribed assuming that the patient's salt intake, fluid intake, and activity levels are the same each day. In fact, these levels vary from day to day. Since the medications cannot handle these variations, clinic patients are taught to adjust their own medications.

Overweight patients will also benefit from losing those excess pounds. Added weight puts an additional burden on an already stressed heart.

Physical activities

Heart failure patients have certain limitations. Rest is important. Here are some additional activity guidelines:

  • Space daily activities such as bathing, shaving, eating and dressing. Treat them as exercises, resting after each one
  • Perform activities at a slow to moderate pace. Stop when you feel tired or short of breath
  • Know your limitations. Heart failure patients do not have the "second wind" that most people do
  • Remember that resting doesn't necessarily mean sleeping. You can rest by sitting quietly in a chair for 20-30 minutes

Provoking problems

Heart failure patients often experience problems when they:

  • fail to take medications as prescribed
  • eat too many high-salt foods or add salt to food
  • drink more water or other fluids than prescribed
  • smoke tobacco products
  • have a rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • experience strong emotions such as fear, excitement or anxiety

Signs of concern

There are a number of signals to alert the patient when their condition is worsening. Patients should notify the congestive heart failure clinic staff if they:

  • grow extremely short of breath, or even slightly shorter of breath than normal
  • tire more than usual from typical activities
  • develop a cough without any flu-like symptoms
  • notice swelling in the feet, ankles, hands, stomach/abdomen, lower back or hips
  • gain three pounds overnight, or five or more pounds over several days
  • feel anxious
  • develop a cold sweat
  • have trouble sleeping unless your head is elevated
  • have extreme muscle fatigue

Remember, contact the Congestive Heart Failure Clinic immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

For appointments or answers about congestive heart failure, call (515) 235-5000.