Chronic heart failure affects nearly 5 million Americans, with over 400,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Tremendous advances in medical and surgical therapy for coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, and life-threatening arrhythmias have significantly extended the lives of patients with serious cardiac conditions. In addition, more aggressive management of contributing illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and high cholesterol have also contributed to the number of Americans living with heart failure. With so many cardiac patients living longer, many go on to develop heart failure and require specialized care.
Because of accumulated fluid in the lungs and legs, patients with heart failure are chronically fatigued and short of breath. Many cannot perform the activities of daily living – like dressing and bathing – without assistance. Early diagnosis, treatment, and long-term care of patients with heart failure often requires a team approach with physicians, nurses, and dieticians working together to keep patients at home and feeling well.