How can I live with heart failure?

Linda Rohyans
Cardiac Rehabilitation

If you are living with heart failure, it is very important to be an “active participant” in your treatment plan. By making lifestyle behavior changes, your quality of life may be enhanced and your symptoms may be better managed. To effectively make a change, it takes time. Making lifestyle changes in your life requires confidence in your abilities to make the necessary changes; you also need support and motivation from family, friends, and your team of health care providers. As you gain confidence in your self-care abilities, your lifestyle changes transform into a daily routine. 

Recommended self-care behaviors are:

  • Take all medications as prescribed. It is important to know why you take the medications that you do; if you cannot afford your medications, or you think you are experiencing side-effects from any medication, be sure to discuss this with your healthcare providers.
  • Weigh yourself every morning and record your weights on a log or calendar. Establish a routine of using the bathroom first, wearing the same amount of clothing, and weighing yourself at the same time every morning. By monitoring your daily weight, you will be able to detect rapid weight gain, which could mean fluid is accumulating in your body. When you retain fluid in your body (similar to a soaked sponge), you could possibly notice your breathing becoming more difficult, losing your appetite, or see swelling in any part of your body.
  • Maintain a low sodium diet. Sodium is salt. Sodium should be restricted to 2000 mg a day; 1500 mg a day if you are in your 50s or older. If you exceed this daily amount, your kidneys have to work over-time. Try to avoid processed foods like hot dogs, lunchmeat, and chips.
  • Keep all appointments with your healthcare providers. By closely following-up with your healthcare providers, you can stay on top of any small problems that could very quickly escalate; requiring hospitalization.
  • Recognize and act quickly upon increasing symptoms. Inform your healthcare providers immediately if you notice a weight gain of 2-3 lbs. in one day or 5 lbs. in a week; or if you notice difficulty breathing or feeling more tired than usual. 

It takes effort to make these lifestyle changes, but living with heart failure is certainly more manageable when you are able to acquire these positive self-care behaviors.

Susie Whitworth

When you have congestive heart failure (CHF), caring for yourself is one of the most important parts of your treatment plan. Monitor yourself daily for any early symptoms indicating a flare-up in your CHF. Components of self-care include:

  • Weigh yourself at the same time every morning using the same scales and wearing the same clothes. Report any weight gain of 3 lbs or more to your doctor immediately.
  • Incorporate taking your medications into your daily routine. Use tools such as pill boxes and calendars to remind yourself to take your medications as prescribed.
  • Eat only 2-3g of sodium daily. Read food labels and keep a log of how much sodium you eat each day.
  • Monitor yourself for any increase in frequency or severity of chest pains and report these symptoms to your doctor immediately.
  • Follow the exercise program prescribed by your doctor.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Stay up to date with your flu and pneumonia vaccines.
  • Do not take any over the counter medications without consulting your doctor.
  • Follow the daily fluid restriction prescribed by your doctor. Measure out your daily fluid intake each morning and do not go over the allotted amount.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol to 1-2 glasses of wine daily and include these in your daily fluid intake count.
  • Maintain good dental hygiene.
  • Follow good handwashing techniques.
Following self-care measures for CHF can prevent flare-ups and improve quality of life.

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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.