Skip to content

Heart Failure Health Center

Living With Advanced Heart Failure

9 self-care and lifestyle tips.
Font Size
A
A
A

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.

Today on WebMD

Compressed heart
Article
Salt Shockers
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
Slideshow
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW
 

Mechanical Heart
Article
Omega 3 Overview Slideshow
Slideshow
 
Atrial Fibrillation Guide
Slideshow
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 

Compressed heart
Article
FAQ Heart Failure
Article
 
Cholesterol Confusion
Health Check
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections