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July 10, 2013

Patient role vital in managing congestive heart failure

PLATTSBURGH — A diagnosis of congestive heart failure need not be a life sentence if a person is determined to manage the condition properly.

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart has been damaged or is weak. It is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, but doctors have many treatments at their disposal to keep it from worsening.

“Heart failure is not a disease in itself but a syndrome that can be caused by disease,” said Anne Laramee, a clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioner for Cardiology and Palliative Care Services at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

“It occurs when a heart problem causes the heart not to pump the way it should or it doesn’t fill as well as it should.”

COMMON PROBLEM

The heart is an intricate muscle with many working parts that have to mesh for it to operate properly. Electrical impulses controlling the heartbeat may misfire, causing problems with how blood is pumped through the body, or the heart itself can hold too little or too much blood, which can impact its ability to pump.

“Heart failure is a common problem, and it is increasing,” said Laramee, who spoke in Plattsburgh recently as part of the CVPH Medical Center Community Lecture Series. 

“For people over 40, there’s a one-in-four chance for developing heart failure.”

Congestive heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization for people older than 65, Laramee told the several dozen people in attendance at the Warren Ballroom on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.

Also, up to 44 percent of those people admitted to the hospital with heart failure are readmitted within six months of the first hospital stay.

“There are a lot of things we are learning today that can help prevent (those kinds of hospital statistics),” she said. 

FIVE FOCAL POINTS

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