Monitoring Heart Failure

If you have heart failure, you play an active role in tracking your condition.

How do you do that?

Tip 1: Weigh Yourself Daily

Step on the scale at the same time each day (for example, in the morning after peeing but before breakfast). Use the same scale when you do it. Also, try to wear similar clothing each time.

Write your weight down each day in a diary or on a calendar.

Call your doctor if you gain 2 or more pounds in a day or 5 or more pounds in a week.

If you notice signs that you’re swelling more or you’re retaining fluid -- things like your clothes fit differently, or your belly, feet, or ankles become swollen -- talk with your doctor.

He may ask you to:

  • Eliminate 500 milligrams of sodium from your diet for a couple of days.
  • Drink less fluids for a couple of days.

If neither of these things work, let your doctor know. He may need to adjust your medications.

Tip 2: Watch How Much You Drink

If your doctor wants you to cut down on how much fluid you have each day, record the liquids you do have. You may need to keep it to 8 cups (which is 64 ounces or 2 quarts) every 24 hours. If you keep track of what you have, it’ll be easier to stick to that guideline.

It’s important to note that some foods are considered fluids, too. These include:

  • Pudding
  • Gelatin (like Jell-O)
  • Soups (thin or thick)
  • Ice pops (like Popsicles)
  • Ice cream

One way to keep track of how much fluid you have is to fill a 2-quart pitcher to the top with water every day and put it in an accessible place in the kitchen. Every time you drink or eat something that’s considered a fluid, remove the same amount of water from the pitcher/bottle. When the pitcher/bottle is empty, you have had your limit of fluids for the day.

You should also know that being thirsty doesn’t mean your body needs more fluid.

If you’re thirsty, but you’re near or at your limit of fluids for the day:

  • Nibble on frozen grapes or strawberries.
  • Suck on ice chips (not cubes), a sucker, or a washcloth soaked in ice-cold water.
  • Cover your lips with petroleum jelly, flavored lip balm, or lip moisturizer.
  • Suck on hard candy or chew sugarless gum.

Your doctor may also ask you to record how much you pee.


Tip 3: Manage Breathing Problems

If you have increased breathlessness at night, try sleeping in a recliner chair, use more pillows, or get a supportive cushion so that you are resting more upright.

To breathe better:

  • Listen to your body and slow down when you’re short of breath.
  • Take breaks throughout the day: read, pay bills, write letters, use the computer for fun.
  • Use music, meditation, or yoga to ease stress.

If you feel breathlessness, short of breath, or you have trouble breathing, talk with your doctor. He may ask you to:

  • Have less sodium for a couple of days.
  • Have less liquid for a couple of days.

If neither of these help, call your doctor. He may need to adjust your medications.

Tip 4: See Your Doctor Regularly

Keep all your appointments with your care team. It’ll increase your chances of staying on track with your treatment plan. If you have questions about your condition, write them down and bring them with you to your appointments.

If you have urgent questions, call when you have them.

If you see any other doctor, let him know about your heart failure medications and your diet or fluid restrictions.

Keep your list of medications (names, dosages, and times taken) and allergies with you to answer questions that a doctor or nurse may ask you. If another doctor prescribes any other drugs, call your heart failure doctor before taking them.

  • Make sure you know how to treat yourself if you have a virus, the flu, or a fever. Remember: Do not take any over-the-counter drugs unless you ask your doctor first.
  • Talk to your doctor if you are having sexual problems or depression.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting the flu shot every year and the pneumonia vaccine so you can stay healthy.

Tip 5: Quit Smoking and Using Tobacco

You probably know how smoking can be harmful. For a person with heart failure, smoking and using tobacco causes your blood pressure to rise and raises your risk for heart disease and many other conditions.

If you quit, you will likely:

  • Prolong your life
  • Improve your health
  • Feel healthier
  • Look better (smoking can cause face wrinkles, stained teeth, yellow-stained fingers, and dull skin)
  • Improve your sense of taste and smell
  • Save money
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 23, 2014



American Heart Association: "Heart Failure."

Heart Failure Society of America: "Learn More About Heart Failure."

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: "Explore Heart Failure."

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