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Living With Heart Failure

By making lifestyle changes, you can take an active role in treating your heart failure while maintaining a productive life. This article addresses many lifestyle questions you may have and offers tips that should make performing daily activities easier.

When Can I Return to Regular Activities?

You can resume your regular activities as soon as you feel better, but follow your doctor's guidelines. Increase your activities slowly and always listen to your body so you know when it's time to take a rest break.

When Can I Return to Work?

If you have been in the hospital for your heart failure, your doctor will tell you how soon you can return to work after you go home. Your return to work will be based on your overall health, symptoms, and your rate of recovery.

You should try to work as long as you are able. If you have a job that requires a lot of physical work, you may need to change some of your job-related activities. This may involve job re-training or taking disability.

Talk to your doctor about the type of job you have. Your doctor can help you decide if your job will affect your heart condition and if you need to make changes.

The following tips should make your transition back to work easier.

  • Plan periods of rest. Be sure to get plenty of rest. You may need to plan at least one rest period every day. When you rest, keep your feet up to keep the swelling in your legs down.
  • Conserve your energy. Using less energy with daily tasks can help you have more energy to do more activities during the day. You may need to cut down on some of your activities or use energy-saving devices or techniques. If daily self care or home care activities are too tiring, tell your doctor.

Energy-Conserving Tips for Those With Heart Failure

  • Simplify your tasks and set realistic goals. Don't think you have to do things the same way you've always done them.
  • Plan your activities ahead of time. Do not schedule too many activities to do in one day. Do the things that take more energy when you are feeling your best. If needed, rest before and after activities. If you become tired during an activity, stop and rest. You may need to finish it on another day or when you feel less tired. Also, do not plan activities right after a meal.
  • Get a good night's sleep. Be careful not to nap too much during the day or you might not be able to sleep at night.
  • Ask for help. Divide the tasks among family and friends.
  • If needed, use devices and tools that assist you such as a walker, shower chair, hand-held shower head, bedside toilet, or long-handled tools for dressing (such as a shoe horn).
  • Wear clothes that have zippers and buttons in the front so you don't have to reach behind you.
  • Do all of your grooming (shaving, drying your hair, etc.) while sitting.
  • If your doctor says it's OK, you may climb steps. You may need to rest part of the way if you become tired. Try to arrange your activities so you do not have to climb up and down stairs many times during the day.
  • Avoid extreme physical activity. Do not push, pull, or lift heavy objects (more than 10 pounds).
  • For more energy-saving tips, tell your doctor you would like to speak to an occupational therapist or cardiac rehabilitation specialist.
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