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Beating Heart Failure: Proactive Measures for a Healthier Life

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OMAHA, Neb. - Heart failure, a condition affecting the heart's ability to pump blood effectively, is a concern for many individuals.

According to Katie Dorn, a Registered Nurse at the Omaha VA Medical Center, February is the perfect month to focus on heart health, heart failure, its impact on the body, and the proactive measures that can be taken to reduce its risk. 

Dorn's expert advice sheds light on the importance of awareness and education in maintaining heart health. "Heart failure is when the heart muscle does not pump blood as well as it should," Dorn explained. "When this occurs, blood can back up in the body, and fluid can build up in the lungs."

Recognizing the significance of early detection, Dorn highlighted some common symptoms of heart failure that individuals should be aware of. These symptoms include shortness of breath, swelling in the lower extremities, fatigue, rapid weight gain due to fluid buildup, persistent cough, and irregular heartbeat.

Dorn emphasized the importance of adopting preventative measures to mitigate the risk of heart failure. 

"Quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, maintain a healthy weight, get plenty of exercise, maintain a healthy diet, take all medications as directed by your provider, and reduce stress when able," she said.

Taking a proactive approach to heart health, the Omaha VA Medical Center has organized Heart Health Matters demonstrations to empower attendees with life-saving skills and knowledge. Dorn outlined what participants can expect to learn during these sessions.

"Attendees will learn how to perform bystander CPR and operate an AED (automated external defibrillator)," she said. "They will also receive examples of healthy recipes and how to cook healthy at home. They will also learn to implement self-care and self-healing practices such as massage, acupuncture, rolling movement, and aromatherapy. These techniques help reduce stress, improve physical well-being, and empower veterans to take control of their wellness."

In addition to the demonstrations, the Omaha VA Medical Center provides various resources to support heart failure patients. Dorn highlighted some of these resources, including a Heart Failure case manager, access to Whole Health programs, a Healthy Teaching Kitchen, dieticians, Home Telehealth Monitoring, and educational literature that can be obtained from primary care providers or the heart failure clinic.

For those Veterans living with heart failure, VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System offers a comprehensive approach to education and support. By equipping individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to manage heart health, the medical center aims to empower veterans on their journey to optimal well-being, said Dorn.

Interested in attending the Heart Health Matters demonstrations or seeking heart failure support? Dorn recommends that Veterans speak with your primary care provider. They, and their families, are also invited to attend the Heart Health Matters events at the Omaha VA Medical Center on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, from 10 am to 2 pm. 

This interactive event includes activities and demonstrations to improve Veterans’ knowledge and understanding of heart health.

Events include: 

  • Rolling Movement sessions, including Tai Chi, Yoga, and QiGong, from 10 am-1 pm.
  • Relax with Massage Therapy from 10 am-12 pm.
  • Experience Acupuncture from 11:30 am-2 pm.
  • Rejuvenate with Aromatherapy from 11 am-2 pm.
  • Learn and practice CPR on a simulation mannequin and walk through the steps of using an AED from 10 am-2 pm.
  • Our Healthy Kitchen will be hosting a demo of a healthy recipe and sampling from 11 am to 12:30 pm.


There will be 15-minute demonstrations with 15 minutes in between sessions. We will also have education on health and wellness, smoking cessation, and exercise. The My HealtheVet team will be available to assist with online registration and any questions.

Dorn says our heart health affects every part of our body, both physically and mentally. “This event is a wonderful opportunity for Veterans to improve their own health through diet, movement, self-care, and healthy lifestyle choices,” said Dorn. “It will also give them the basic knowledge to help others in the event they need lifesaving CPR. We look forward to seeing our Veterans at these events. They have done so much for all of us. This is a great way for us to give back to them.”

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