To avoid congestive heart failure, you must prevent the various forms of heart disease that lead to it. To prevent coronary heart disease, eat a healthy, balanced diet, control your blood pressure and cholesterol level, maintain a normal body weight, exercise regularly, and don't smoke. Limit alcohol use to one to two drinks per day. Some congestive heart failure cannot be prevented.
The treatment of congestive heart failure focuses on lessening symptoms, decreasing hospitalizations and improving life expectancy. To accomplish these goals, your doctor will advise a low salt diet and medications, which may include:
A diuretic ("water pill") to remove excess body fluid by increasing urine output
An angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker to expand blood vessels and improve forward blood flow
A beta-blocker to help prolong the life of heart muscle cells
Digoxin (Lanoxin) to strengthen the heart's contractions
A potassium sparing diuretic such as spironolactone which in low doses has been shown to improve longevity
Sometimes, anticoagulants (blood thinners) also are prescribed to prevent blood clots, particularly if the patient requires a long period of bed rest.
In addition to treating the symptoms of heart failure, your doctor will address any factors the underlying cause. Heart failure related to coronary artery disease may require additional medications, angioplasty or surgery. When heart failure is caused by a poorly functioning heart valve, your doctor may advise surgical repair or valve replacement. For some people with heart failure, losing weight or stopping all consumption of alcohol can dramatically improve symptoms. Your doctor will inform you of how much exercise is appropriate. Balancing physical activity with rest is important in more advanced stages of heart failure.
When medications and self-treatment are no longer helpful, a heart transplant may be considered. This treatment option is limited by a shortage of donor hearts and usually is reserved for patients younger than 65.