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Frequently Asked Questions About Heart Failure


4. What Drugs Are Used to Treat Heart Failure?

Common types of medications used to treat heart failure include:


5. What Is Cardiac Rehabilitation?

A cardiac rehab program is designed to help you exercise safely and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. The program generally includes a tailored exercise program, education, and help with changing your risk factors (such as quitting smoking and changing your diet). Cardiac rehab programs also offer emotional support. The program allows you to meet others like yourself who can help you stay on track to maintain a healthier heart.

6. How Much Salt Can I Have?

If you have heart failure, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg (1.5 grams) of sodium per day.

7. What Heart Failure Symptoms Warrant a Call to my Doctor?

If you have heart failure and any unusual symptoms, do not wait until your next appointment to discuss them with your doctor. Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Unexplained weight gain -- two pounds in one day or five pounds in one week
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, or abdomen that has become worse
  • Shortness of breath that has become worse or occurs more often, especially if you wake up short of breath
  • A feeling of fullness (bloating) in your stomach with a loss of appetite or nausea
  • Extreme fatigue or decreased ability to complete daily activities
  • A respiratory (lung) infection or a cough that has become worse
  • Fast heart rate (above 100 beats per minute, or as directed by your doctor)
  • New irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain or discomfort during activity that is relieved with rest
  • Difficulty breathing during regular activities or at rest
  • Changes in sleep patterns, including difficulty sleeping or feeling the need to sleep a lot more than usual
  • Decreased urination
  • Restlessness, confusion
  • Constant dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea or poor appetite


8. When Should I Seek Emergency Care for Heart Failure?

Go to your local emergency department or call 911 if you have:

  • New chest pain or discomfort that is severe, unexpected and occurs with shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, or weakness
  • Fast heart rate (more than 120-150 beats per minute, or as directed by your doctor) -- especially if you are short of breath
  • Shortness of breath not relieved by rest
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis (inability to move) in your arms or legs
  • Sudden onset of a severe headache
  • Fainting spell with loss of consciousness


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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on May 16, 2014

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