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Heart Failure Health Center

Living With Advanced Heart Failure

9 self-care and lifestyle tips.
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Don’t exercise right after eating or in very hot or humid conditions. And avoid any form of exercise that involves straining to push, pull, lift, or carry. These so-called “isometric” exercises can overtax an already-weakened heart. Discuss your exercise plans with your doctor or nurse.

7. Make Sure Your Immunizations Are Up to Date 

People with heart failure are highly vulnerable to certain infections, such as influenza and pneumonia. In fact, pneumonia is a leading cause of death among heart failure patients. Be sure to get an annual flu shot. If you haven’t been vaccinated against pneumonia within the last five years, ask your doctor about getting one.

8. Get Plenty of Rest 

People with advanced heart failure often find they have trouble breathing while lying down. If you have this problem, try propping yourself up with an extra pillow or two. Your goal should be to get a full eight hours of sleep a night. If you feel tired during the day, try napping after lunch. Putting your feet up for a few minutes every couple of hours can give your heart a rest.

9. Know When to Call Your Doctor

Certain symptoms merit a call to the doctor. Worrisome symptoms include rapid weight gain of several pounds within a few days, increased swelling, more difficulty breathing, decreased urination, and dizziness.

Also, make sure to talk to your doctor about “just in case” medications. For example, your doctor may suggest you take another diuretic if you develop increased swelling and weight gain, but you should never take extra medication without instructions to do some from your doctor. Discuss specific instructions with your doctor so you can be prepared to act quickly before things get worse.

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Reviewed on March 17, 2010

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