Part 2: What is CHF – Chronic heart failure
Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped beating. It refers to a number of conditions that can affect the way the heart works and/or its structure. Over time, heart failure makes it harder and harder for the heart to pump enough blood and oxygen to meet your body’s needs. That’s why most people with heart failure get short of breath, especially when they are active. Even climbing the stairs or carrying groceries may leave you winded. (www.cardiosmart.org)
Different things can cause it…a virus that settles in the heart, undiagnosed hypertension, heart attack, blocked arteries. My heart shows none of those things so I get to be the mystery case. No real reason this happened to me. MY heart was enlarged and simply not working up to par.
Ok fine. But how do we deal with it? What are the solutions? Can I even recover? Will I ever get back to my old activities? These all ran through my mind. My doctor said he has never had a heart patient complete an Ironman, but he wanted me to be the first. So, how do we get there?
Conventional rehab/recovery is, quite honestly, not designed for anyone with any kind of activity level. You get some variation of this:
- eat low salt, low-fat foods
- exercise regularly
- not smoke
- lose weight if you need to
- monitor your fluid intake
Blah, blah, blah. That’s really advise for anyone to be healthy. What us CHFers need is a real plan, specific to our needs both physically and nutritionally. The standard heart healthy diet doesn’t work for everyone. Reducing activity for a previously active person and throwing carbs, grains, and dairy at them, in my opinion, can only cause more problems. I am only speaking for myself but I encourage everyone to do their research before subscribing to one nutritional plan or another…especially if you are an athlete or very active person. Some BP meds will slow your metabolism and then couple that with questionable nutrition and low activity it can equal weight gain, or at the very least body composition changes you won’t like.
But…there is scant information on this out there. Again, Google it, you will find a list of dead athletes or generic solutions just like I already listed, or a scientific papers full of words you need the Rosetta Stone to decipher. Conspiracy? I don’t think so. What I do think is it just hasn’t been a question to answer. Nobody has pushed this topic, and if they have it has not been documented or in a way that can benefit other anomalies such as myself. Cardiologists have had a solution of helping a patient survive (important goal by the way) but not thrive. I’m focusing on active people or athletes, not your standard heart patient. Now you might ask, “What is standard?” I don’t really know.
All I know is my doctor said most of his patients are sick people and the heart issues tend to be a symptom of overall poor health…not all, but most. He classified me as a healthy athlete with no discernable reason for this particular kick in the groin to have occurred. So, for discussion we will define the minority or abnormal patient as one of the groin kick victims. The great thing I like about my doctor is that he likes to solve puzzles and this is a puzzle to him. He wants to get me back to my old self but he also wants to know why this happened to an otherwise healthy, active triathlete. He is a scientist at heart (again, pun intended).
Now, let me clarify, I am not a doctor, I am not advocating scrapping your doctors or nutritionists advise. What I am saying is you must be an advocate for yourself. Nobody knows you like you. Ask questions. Push the experts to give answers until you are satisfied. That’s exactly what is going to happen here.