Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Exacerbation

Symptoms & Treatment

Dr. Phil Mitchell
Medically reviewed by Dr. Phil MitchellMarch 29th, 2024
DispatchHealth providers in the filed

The term “Congestive Heart Failure” (CHF) can sound alarming, but this condition doesn’t mean the heart has stopped — it means it’s not working as well as it should to meet the body’s needs. This can lead to symptoms like shortness of breath and swelling.

For people who have CHF, a temporary worsening of symptoms is known as CHF exacerbation. This most often happens when a person with CHF stops taking their medication or eats too much salt.

Although CHF is a long-term issue, following a healthcare provider’s advice can help people with this condition live healthier lives and feel better.

Common Treatments for CHF Exacerbation

If you’ve been diagnosed with CHF exacerbation, be sure to follow these guidelines.

  • Take all your medicines as prescribed, especially diuretics (also called “water pills”), and blood pressure medications.
  • Keep salt intake below 2,000mg per day by not salting your food and limiting packaged and canned foods to those that are labeled “low in sodium.”
  • Keep your daily fluid intake between 6 and 9 cups of water per day.
  • Monitory your weight daily, as sudden weight gain could indicate that your body is retaining too much fluid. If you notice weight gain of more than 2 pounds in a day or 4 pounds in a week, check in with your healthcare provider.
  • Don’t smoke, and limit alcohol.
  • Keep moving with everyday activities and gradually increase the amount that you walk as you are able.
  • Follow up with your primary care provider in 2-3 days to make sure you’re on track. If you’re not able to see your doctor in the suggested timeframe, DispatchHealth may recommend you schedule a follow-up visit with us.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Get seen by a healthcare professional right away if you’re experiencing these symptoms with CHF exacerbation.

  • Chest pain, pressure, or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath, especially while walking or lying flat
  • Oxygen levels dropping below 90%
  • Feeling dizzy or weak
  • Fainting or feeling like you might faint
  • Mental confusion

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