How is heart failure treated?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The treatment of heart failure requires prescription medicine as well as life style changes. The treatment can be summed up as follows:

  • Medications
  • Low salt diet (usually no more than 2 gms or 2000 mg of salt or “sodium” a day)
  • Daily weights
  • Exercise or activity guidelines
  • Becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms of worsening heart failure and when to call your healthcare provider
  • Implantable devices in selected individuals based on degree of dysfunction of the heart.  (these devices are similar to pacemakers and are implanted most often under the collar bone in some individuals based on the degree of heart dysfunction)  This type of therapy is only used under the care of a cardiologist (a doctor who specializes in heart disease).
Linda Rohyans
Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist

There are many lifestyle modifcations you can make that will help you manage your heart failure. All of the following recommendations are "Positive Self-Care Behaviors" that have helped many people:

  • Taking Prescribed Medications: Be sure to take all medications that your healthcare provider has ordered for you. Ask why you are taking the medications so you will better understand the importance of missing any doses. Always let your provider know if you are having difficulty obtaining your medications.
  • Follow-Up Care: As with any relationship in your life, communicating your specific needs as a unique individual requires a commitment of time, effort, and trust. The relationship you have with your healthcare team should be a 2-way street; keeping all appointments with your healthcare team provides the opportunity for assessment, discussion, and planning; all of which may potentially keep you out of the hospital.
  • Daily Weights: By weighing yourself every day, you will be better informed of how you are doing with your fluid status (how full your tank is). You will be better able to see quickly if you are gaining fluid and you will be in better control of preventing the worsening of symptoms (shortness of breath and swelling).
  • Low-Salt Diet: Are you aware that the cells in our taste buds renew themselves every few weeks (similar to when the top layer of skin cells on our body slough off and new cells come through)? Even though it may be challenging to adjust to healthier food choices, it will become easier as you "train" your new taste cells to appreciate a lower level of salt intake.
  • Recognizing and Reporting Symptoms: You are the only one who knows your body the best! By becoming more in-tune with how you feel every day, you will become more confident with your self-assessment. If you are more tired or short of breath today by doing the very same activity you performed yesterday, that could possibly raise a little red flag in your mind, and certainly, information your healthcare team would need to know.

Remember, the best way to help your heart failure is with self-care management and working with your healthcare team. Liviing with heart failure can be overwhelming and sometimes you may feel like it is "too big." Like the saying: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." You are just one decision away from making the positive lifestyle changes to help you live with heart failure.

Most often, your heart failure symptoms can be controlled with medicines, diet and finding the right balance between rest and low-level exercise. With early detection and treatment, there is a good chance you will lead a more normal life. Your heart failure symptoms may come and go or, in a few cases, go away completely.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.