The statistics are concerning: Half of the almost 6.5 million Americans who are diagnosed with heart failure today face the risk of dying within the next five years. The number afflicted with the condition is growing by 550,000 new cases every year. Heart failure contributes to about 287,000 deaths a year.
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They are so concerned about the situation that the nurses instituted a week-long campaign to make sure that patients with heart failure as well as their caregivers have the tools and the resources they need to lead a healthy lifestyle.
They call their campaign “Care Transitions and Reduction in Hospitalization.”
The aim of the initiative is to motivate society to be more conscious of what it means to be heart healthy. The nurses looked at mental care as well as physical care.
The main takeaway from the campaign is that you are never alone the nurses say. You should never hesitate to talk to your loved ones and your health care providers.
The association hopes that patients and caregivers will be able to use the information that is shared during the week to handle their heart failure, says the association’s president Linda Wick. The nurses are honored to join families, care providers, and the patients themselves on the journey, she adds.
During the week the nurses’ association issued information sheets that provide advice and tips on how to handle a variety of issues that can lead to heart failure.
The association explains that heart failure is a lifelong journey. Handling it involves all parts of your life, including your emotional and mental health. Your healthcare team is there to help you handle these problems in a way that is healthy. They will be happy to help.
Here is a look at some of the advice that is contained in the information sheets:
Anxiety and heart failure
Having to handle heart failure is extremely stressful in itself. When the stress starts to increase it can lead to anxiety that is uncontrollable, the nurses say. Such anxiety causes certain hormones to be released in your body. Those hormones, in turn, worsens your heart failure.
Anxiety also can lead to depression. As a result, having to deal with one problem leads to having to deal with another one as well.
People in your life might notice signs that you are suffering from anxiety even before you notice it yourself.
Symptoms can include:
• Feeling on edge or restless
• Being irritable
• Avoiding activities as a result of fear that is overwhelming
• Finding it difficult to fall asleep
• Concern about problems that can occur in the future
• Finding it difficult to concentrate
• Tensing your muscles for no specific reason
• Lacking energy
Trying to handle anxiety yourself
Many people who experience these mood changes will often try on their own to deal with them. The problem is that many of these ways only make your heart failure—and your anxiety—worse.
Among the ways in which people try to cope with anxiety are smoking cigarettes or marijuana; using drugs that are illegal; drinking excessive amounts of alcohol; eating foods that are unhealthy; and isolating themselves from loved ones and family.
Healthier ways to cope
The nurses association advises people with anxiety and heart failure to talk to their healthcare professional, who can also advise them on attending a support group; to take light exercise, such as walking, particularly outside; to indulge in spiritual or religious practices as well as meditation and breathing exercises; to spend time with family; to attend a support group, and to find hobbies that they enjoy.
Should your anxiety fail to improve, you might need to start taking medication to help with your mood. Discuss these issues with your doctor or nurse. They also can refer you for counseling.
Depression and heart failure
One of every five people who suffer from heart failure are diagnosed with depression, the nurses’ association says. The slide into depression can be subtle. Your loved ones are likely to notice it before you do.
Depression is a result of severe anxiety so many of the symptoms that accompany anxiety also can occur with depression.
Among the symptoms of depression are:
• In a low mood or feeling sad for most of the day
• Feeling guilty or worthless.
• Noticeable change in appetite; you might either eat a lot or not enough.
• No longer being interested in doing things that you used to enjoy.
• Sleeping for an entire day or failing to sleep at all.
• Thoughts of harming yourself.
People who self-medicate for depression will often take the same steps as those for anxiety.
Healthy ways to deal with depression are similar to those for dealing with anxiety.
Stress and heart failure
Stress has similar symptoms to that of anxiety. It also is important to manage stress in a healthy way. Healthy activities also are similar to those for anxiety. They include light exercise and outdoor activity, such as gardening, fishing, or walking; spending time with people who are supportive; and breathing exercises; finding a hobby such as puzzles, needle point, or a fairly simple activity such as cooking.
Other information from the association includes:
Common heart failure medications; improving health literacy; supporting care transitions; heart failure readmissions and common comorbidities; and neighborhood, environment and heart failure.
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