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    Monitoring Heart Failure

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

    How do you do that?

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    Understanding Heart Failure -- Diagnosis and Treatment

    Doctors diagnose heart failure by taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam and tests. During the medical history your doctor will want to know if: You have any other health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, angina (chest pain), high blood pressure, or other heart problems You smoke You drink alcohol, and if so, how much You are taking medications. During the physical, the doctor will check your blood pressure, use a stethoscope to hear sounds associated with...

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    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.

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