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    Living With Advanced Heart Failure

    9 self-care and lifestyle tips.

    continued...

    Talk to your doctor before turning to salt substitutes as they may be high in potassium, which can be dangerous for people with heart failure

    Ideally, your meals will be prepared from fresh foods. If you must eat commercially prepared foods, look for low-sodium varieties. Read labels carefully to find how just how much sodium each serving contains. Try to choose low-sodium foods – no more than 140 mg per serving – to stay within your 2,000 mg daily goal.

    3. Don’t Drink Alcohol or Smoke

    Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide and many other toxins, which interfere with the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Alcohol weakens the heart’s pumping ability. Too much alcohol can cause heart failure and aggravate existing cases of the disease.

    4. Weigh Yourself Every Day

    Doctors consider rapid weight gain an early warning sign that the body is retaining salt and fluids -- evidence that the patient’s condition is worsening or that medication needs to be adjusted. Alert your doctor at once if you gain more than three pounds in a single day or five pounds in a week (or whatever amount specified by the doctor). For an accurate reading, be sure to weigh yourself at the same time each morning (after using the bathroom but before eating breakfast).

    Are you overweight? Losing weight can be especially hard for advanced heart failure patients, because the vigorous exercise that helps burn calories is probably out of the question. But do what you can to shed some pounds, because extra weight puts extra strain on the heart.

    5. Keep a Daily Journal

    Record your weight and -- ideally -- your blood pressure, along with any change in symptoms. Call your doctor if your blood pressure goes unusually high or low. Each time you visit the doctor, take along the journal and go over it together.

    6. Exercise Regularly -- but Carefully

    Even in cases of advanced heart failure, walking and other forms of aerobic exercise can help strengthen your cardiovascular system in addition to helping with weight loss. Aim for 30 minutes of gentle exercise, five days a week, at a pace that feels comfortable.

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