• 59°

KDMC heart failure support group

ASHLAND, Ky. — Heart failure is a serious condition affecting more than 5 million Americans. While there is no known cure for the disease, the condition can be managed through medication, lifestyle changes, education and support.

King’s Daughters Medical Center sponsors a monthly support group for those with heart failure and their families. The group is led by registered nurse Amanda Johnson of the KDMC Cardiology Clinic and meets once a month in the Parkview Board Room at King’s Daughters.

The support group’s first meeting of the year will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 2. Johnson will speak on, “Taking Control of Heart Failure.”

RSVPs are requested and may be made by calling (606) 408-6002.

“Our goal is to help people who have been diagnosed with heart failure — and their families — reduce symptoms and hospitalizations and ultimately, to live better lives,” Johnson said.

The support group is free and open to anyone with heart failure and their loved ones. Physician referral is not required, although RSVPs are requested. Each meeting includes both a formal presentation and an opportunity for members to share their experiences and help one another.

“We try to have a pretty informal approach because we know how much people with heart failure benefit from talking with others facing the same issues,” Johnson said.

Heart failure affects more than 5 million Americans and about 550,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“Heart failure is the most common reason for hospitalization for people on Medicare,” Johnson noted. Hospitalizations for heart failure have increased substantially – in 2004, there were 1.1 million hospitalizations nationwide for heart failure. Heart failure treatment is estimated to cost about $30 billion annually.

The most common causes of heart failure are coronary artery disease, hypertension or high blood pressure, and diabetes. About 70 percent of people diagnosed with heart failure had high blood pressure before being diagnosed. Common symptoms of heart failure include:

Shortness of breath during mild or usual daily activities.

Having trouble breathing when lying down.

Weight gain with swelling in the legs, ankles, or lower back from fluid buildup in the body. Swelling can be mild or moderate.

General fatigue and weakness.

The meetings and scheduled topics for 2010 include:

March 30: Tips for Following a Low-Sodium Diet

April 27: Heart Failure Medications: Questions & Answers

May 25: Self-Care: Following your treatment plan & dealing with symptoms

June 22: Exercise and Activity

July 20: Heart Failure: Keeping a Positive Outlook

Aug. 17: Family/Friend Support

Sept. 14: Lifestyle: Managing Other Chronic Conditions

Oct. 12: Advanced Care Planning

Nov. 9: Taking Control of Heart Failure

Dec. 7: Tips for Following a Low-Sodium Diet

For more information about the Heart Failure Support Group, or King’s Daughters services for heart failure patients, call Johnson at (606) 408-6462.