What is Heart Failure?

Lester Griesinger is one of the 5.8 million people in the United States coping with heart failure every day. This long-term condition, also called congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart can no longer pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body.

The then 55-year-old had open-heart surgery in 2010 and was diagnosed with heart failure summer 2013. In July 2013, he was admitted to ProMedica Flower Hospital, and 10 days later, he was discharged to a skilled nursing facility. His health is now monitored with weekly visits to the ProMedica Heart Failure Clinic, where he works with a team of skilled nurses to develop and execute a plan to manage his heart failure and diabetes.

Many factors contributed to Griesinger’s risk for heart failure. His family history includes both heart failure and diabetes. He also smoked and struggled to maintain a healthy weight.

“When we first started working with Mr. Griesinger in the clinic, we took a team approach – as we do with all our patients – to teach him about his condition,” says Latina Amick, CNP, ProMedica Heart Failure Clinic.

Education about heart failure is just as important as the medications used to treat it. “By coaching Lester one-on-one and providing him with a heart failure binder to store all of his records, we were able to tailor a plan that best fit his learning style,” Amick says.

Griesinger’s personalized plan included guidelines on how to eat, manage his 29 medications – and most importantly – quit smoking.

“I kept track of my weight, but not my blood pressure,” he says. “I never read a label at a grocery store. Now, I read the label first. If it’s over 150 -200 mg of salt, I don’t eat it. I also recently quit smoking.”

Griesinger has learned how to reduce his sodium and fluid intake to manage the fluid retention that often comes with heart failure. Thanks to these efforts, he lost more than 30 pounds of excess fluid sanfter he was discharged from the hospital in July. In addition, his nurses noticed he could breathe easier — and breathing easier makes moving around easier too.

His nurses at the heart failure clinic recognize and encourage the importance of taking control of personal wellness. With frequent medication changes and doctor’s visits, most people with heart failure struggle to do this alone.

“When patients start to see improvements in their own health, it greatly affects their self-esteem and confidence. They feel like they have control over their lives again,” says Amick.

And, that’s definitely true for Griesinger.

“There was a lot of information I did not know. I have learned so much through the videos the nurses have shown me. They have been so helpful when working with me,” he says.

“By following their advice and working with them, I can walk and exercise easier. I am more mobile and have more energy.”

People who are 65 years old and older, African American, overweight, or have had a heart attack have a higher risk of developing heart failure. Men are also more likely to have heart failure than women.

Although there is no cure for heart failure, it can be managed with lifestyle changes, the right medications and some helpful support from a team of medical professionals.