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Living with Heart Failure: 5 Steps for Better Health

August 22, 2019

Living with Heart Failure: 5 Steps for Better Health

There are more than 5 million Americans living with heart failure. And the key word here is living.

While there’s no cure for this condition, there’s plenty that people who have it can do to relieve symptoms and lead comfortable, productive lives.

Here are five to focus on:

1. Cut back on fluids and sodium.

People with heart failure are prone to retaining fluid. If you consume a lot of liquids or eat foods high in salt, which causes the body to hold onto water, fluid retention may get worse.

  • Ask your doctor how much fluid is safe to consume.
  • Read food labels and choose foods with the lowest amounts of sodium—particularly in breads and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts and cured meats, poultry, and sandwiches.
  • Use less table salt to season foods. Instead, enhance flavor through herbs and other salt-free seasonings.

2. Weigh yourself regularly.

Weight gain can be a sign you’re retaining fluid, which can make your heart failure worse.

  • Ask your doctor when to bring weight gain to his or her attention.
  • Step on the scale every day, preferably before breakfast and after urinating, and use the same scale in the same spot. Wear the same type of clothing, but no shoes.

3. Manage your medications.

Several types of medicines help keep heart failure in check. Ask your doctor to explain how your medicines work—and be sure to take them exactly as directed.

  • Use a checklist, pillbox, or other device to track your medication use.
  • Consult your doctor before taking any new medicine, over-the-counter product, or herbal supplement.
  • Tell your doctor if you have side effects or other problems with your medicines—including problems paying for them.

4. Don’t ignore emotional stress

Heart failure can cause depression and anxiety. Both can make it harder to stick with your treatment plan and affect your quality of life.

  • Report any feelings of depression or anxiety to your doctor right away. He or she can help.
  • Tell family and friends how you’re feeling and what they can do to help.
  • Consider joining a support group.

5. Work closely with your doctor.

His or her guidance is essential in helping you manage heart failure.

  • Know your doctor’s advice.
  • Know how often to seek regular medical care and when you might need emergency care.
  • Keep all scheduled appointments, including those for tests and lab work.

Find a doctor

A cardiologist can help you manage chronic heart failure. Find a physician to speak to about your cardiac concerns.