A heart failure diagnosis sounds like death is imminent, but this chronic condition is treatable. Your heart hasn’t quit working. It just doesn’t function at maximum capacity. Your heart muscle could be too stiff or weak to pump sufficient blood to your organs and tissues, so tasks that may have been easy before become more difficult. Tips from Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital, Healthwise, and other experts can help you handle everyday activities when you’re living in heart failure.
Know the Signs
See your doctor promptly if you experience any of these heart failure symptoms:
- Breathing difficulties at rest
- Reduced energy or fatigue that may be worse when you’re physically active
- Abdominal, leg, or ankle swelling
- Wheezing or coughing
- Recent weight loss or gain
- Confusion or reduced concentration ability
Medications Are Essential
Heart failure medications include calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, angiotension converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, (ARBs), aldosterone antagonists, diuretics, digoxin, vasodilators, antiarrhythmics, antihypertensives, and blood thinners. Search Canada Drug Pharmacy for the drugs your doctor prescribes. Learn more about the prescription discounts you can expect.
Following your doctor’s treatment plan can:
- Prolong your life
- Control or relieve your symptoms
- Alleviate ankle or leg swelling
- Make breathing easier
- Stabilize or improve your heart function
- Slow heart failure progression
- Treat additional health conditions like coronary artery disease
- Reduce your risk of developing other problems like stroke
- Boost your energy, so you can be more active
- Enhance your quality of life
- Decrease hospitalizations
Managing Your Health and Life
Tracking weight fluctuations is vital. Weigh every morning after using the toilet and before drinking or eating anything. Record your weight either undressed or in similar attire without shoes. Swelling and sudden weight gains of just two or three pounds indicate fluid retention, which could require a medication adjustment.
Controlling coexisting health conditions like COPD, hypertension, and diabetes can reduce your heart failure symptoms. Check your heart rate and blood pressure daily and your blood glucose as your doctor instructs if you’re diabetic.
When everyday routines like changing clothes make you breathless, reorganize closets and drawers for easy access to minimize repeated straining. Sitting on a shower stool can reduce exertion if you’re too weak to stand.
Choose heart-healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruits over processed and canned options. Replace margarine and butter with healthy olive and canola oils. Enjoy salmon, tuna, beans, whole-grain breads, walnuts, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
Limit your liquid intake to six or eight cups per day to avoid fluid buildup that overworks your heart. Count water, juice, coffee, tea, milk, sodas, ice, and soups. Include foods like gelatin, ice cream, sherbet, and popsicles that liquefy at room temperature. Avoid alcohol, which can worsen your illness. Pour each liquid into a measuring cup before consuming to track your remaining amount. Spread your liquid allowance out evenly over the day, saving enough to swallow evening medicines.
Reducing your sodium intake to 2000 milligrams per day will help control your heart failure symptoms. Don’t add table or sea salt when cooking and eating. The sodium content of just one teaspoon is around 2300 milligrams, which exceeds a full day’s allotment. Season foods with herbs and spices instead.
Inactivity can worsen your illness quickly. But regular physical activity can reduce your symptoms and weight while increasing your strength and mood. Establish a set time to work out every day. Begin slowly and advance gradually with your doctor’s permission. Moderate exercises including walking, bicycling, swimming, and climbing stairs can help you be as fit as possible. Skip intense workouts like lifting weights and heavy-resistance exercises such as push-ups that require sudden physical exertion, which can increase your heart’s workload and blood pressure.
Shopping, cooking, cleaning house, and yard work may be challenging. Rearrange kitchen necessities so they’re easier to reach. Family, friends, or neighbors may help with errands and difficult duties. Check out providers that offer grocery delivery, cleaning, laundry, mowing, and other services.
Most heart failure patients can navigate their automobiles safely. But don’t drive during confused episodes or on pain medications. If you’ve experienced arrhythmias or fainting spells, ask your doctor if driving is feasible.
Many people with heart failure continue their full-time careers. Based on your condition’s cause, severity, possible stress test results, and your job’s demands, your doctor can help determine your appropriate work level.
Maintaining friendships and leisure activities while developing new ones is important, so reach out to others. Having fun can impact your health positively.
The majority of heart failure patients can still enjoy active sex lives. Ask your doctor whether you’re healthy enough for intimacy.
Generally, people in mild or moderate heart failure can enjoy all types of travel safely. Keep a list of prescriptions, major medical conditions and hospitalizations, and your doctor’s contact information on you for setbacks or hospitalizations when you’re out of town. Take enough medications to last several days beyond your intended stay in case return travel delays occur.