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Program combines education, exercise to help CHF patients

ETMC Fairfield recently launched a program designed to help patients suffering from congestive heart failure manage the disease and avoid hospitalization.

CHF affects 5.2 million people in the United States and each year approximately 400,000 new cases are diagnosed. CHF accounts for 870,000 hospital admissions each year, and it is predicted that it will cost $44.6 billion by 2015.

A CHF diagnosis indicates that the heart's pumping is weaker than normal. This results in blood moving through the heart and body at a slower rate, and increased pressure in the heart, which creates a deficit of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Eventually, the muscle walls of the heart weaken resulting in less efficient pumping. As a side effect, the kidneys may respond by causing the body to retain fluid (water) and salt, causing swelling or congestion throughout the body.

There are many causes of heart failure. Some of them are uncontrolled high blood pressure, poorly functioning heart valves, use of recreational drugs, such as cocaine,  chemotherapy drugs and irregular cardiac rhythms.

Mortality rates from heart disease in Freestone County exceed the state average (211.7 deaths per 1,000 vs. 186.7deaths per 1,000). Proper management of CHF is needed to help patients have a better quality of life and avoid hospitalization. That is why ETMC Fairfield has implemented a congestive heart failure program.

Under the leadership of Marilyn Burwitz, RN, program coordinator for the hospital's cardiopulmonary rehabilitation center, the CHF program combines classroom education and exercise.

"The goal of the program is to help patients and caregivers become active participants in their own care," Burwitz said. "But, in order to do that, they need to be equipped with knowledge about CHF and how to manage it. We want to educate them so they can avoid hospitalization and get back to exercising on a regular basis in order to improve the quality of their lives."

Classes meet twice a week for six weeks at the ETMC Fairfield Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center. Class size is limited to four patients and their caregivers. Two classes meet concurrently during a six-week period. One class meets for exercise prior to a joint education session. The second class exercises after the education session.

Education sessions cover topics such as cardiac anatomy, an explanation of CHF and its management, nutrition, monitoring daily weights and sodium intake, medications, exercise and other topics of interest to CHF patients.

Patients can sign themselves up for the program - a physician referral is not required.  However, they must be under the care of a primary care physician in order to participate. The cost of the program is $25.

For more information, contact the ETMC Fairfield Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center at 903-389-1614.