A Weighty Matter

I got on the scale this morning and my weight was 160 pounds… down one pound from yesterday. Still a bit heaver than I want it to be, but it is an improvement and I’ll take it.

And when I went to the seafood restaurant today, I passed on the chicken fingers and went to the salad bar. Sometimes, you have to do these things.

Your weight is critical when you have Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). Contrary to popular belief, Heart Failure does not mean that the heart “failed”, so to speak, but it is getting into trouble. There are a lot of things you can do to help it out, and losing weight is one of them.

When your heart fails, it loses its ability to pump effectively. Like a rubber ball that is bounced too many times, it has lost some of its elasticity, and is not pumping your blood as efficiently as it once was. One of the results is that your kidneys are not getting the blood flow they once did, and the toxins in your body aren’t being cleaned out as good as they once were. So your kidneys send a message to your brain: ‘Hey, we’re having some trouble down here.”

The brain sends orders to the heart: “Stop loafing, and work harder down there!” And like a good soldier the heart tries its best… which leads to the heart muscle getting weaker. The kidneys still aren’t cleaning the blood… and it becomes a cycle.

After being diagnosed with CHF, the patient is usually told to drop some weight, exercise, control his sodium and liquid intake, and prescribed diuretics. The more weight that comes off, the easier a job the heart has, and the diuretics certainly help in that area.

What is a diuretic? They are sometimes called “water pills”, and if that doesn’t give you a hint, they make you urinate… hopefully a lot. Diuretics help the kidneys do their job more effectively, and since most of your weight gain in Heart Failure is going to be liquid based, so much the better. Trust me, whenever you walk into a store from now on, you’ll scan the building for signs that say “restroom”.

Weight is so important to someone in CHF that they are told to start keeping a record of how much they weigh every day. You should start your day by going to the bathroom first thing, and then weighing yourself. ONLY WEIGH ONCE A DAY. Your weight fluctuates during the day, and weighing every few hours will drive you batty. You should not be dressed when you weigh, and you should strive to wear about the same thing every time you weigh. Be consistant.

This number is going to be very important – it’s almost like a “tripwire”. If you gain more than 3 pounds in a day and there is not a good reason (Overindulged at your recent birthday party, for example – sorry, doc!) then you need to call your doctor’s office and report it. He/She will probably instruct you to take an extra diuretic and see what happens, or if it is extreme, you may be told to come in to the office. Weather changes will cause your weight to fluctuate, also. I’ve learned that if it is raining when I get up, my weight is probably going to be up a little bit. As time passes and you learn how your body reacts, the doctor may allow you to take extra diuretics without calling in, but until you are explicitly told that you can do that, make the call and ask permission.

Fighting Congestive Heart Failure is not easy… but it can be done. CHF is not the death sentance it used to be.

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