Over the past several months, Saint Joseph-London has become deeply involved in combating congestive heart failure — a disease that affects more Laurel County residents than every kind of cancer combined.

“We are becoming more involved because heart failure is so prevalent in our community,” said Sharon Hershberger, Saint Joseph-London public affairs director. “We want to aid those patients in the management of their disease processs to help improve their quality of life. The focusing efforts we are using to combat heart failure are education of the public, grant monies, and partnerships with other facilities who aid heart failure patients.”

CHF is a chronic condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to meet the needs of other organs in the body. This failure results in blood backing up in the veins and lungs.

Poor lifestyle choices can contribute to the onset of CHF.

“Any factor that causes the ‘wear and tear’ of the heart can cause heart failure,” registered nurse Shalan Gibbs said.

Smoking, being overweight, physical inactivity, alcohol abuse and eating a diet high in fat and cholesterol are all contributing factors to getting sick.

Symptoms include shortness of breath, frequent coughing that may get worse when lying down, feeling weak or tired, loss of appetite or nausea, weight gain, swelling of the feet, legs and/or belly, a fast heart rate and confusion or inability to think clearly.

While these symptoms can be debilitating, they can lessen over time.

“With the correlation of a heart failure management team and with the initiation of lifestyle modification and medication therapy, heart failure can be easily managed,” Gibbs said.

“If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above or if you have one or more of the risk factors for heart failure, inform your health care provider,” Gibbs added. “With willingness and dedication heart failure can be successfully managed, leading to a healthier, happier life.”

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo.com.

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