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Enjoying Life When You Have Heart Failure

People who have heart failure can be active and enjoy life.

Daily activities. If you have heart failure, you may find that your symptoms make it difficult to do things like cook, clean, bathe, or shop. You can deal with these limitations in various ways. For example, you can rearrange your kitchen to make cooking easier or put a stool in your shower so that you can sit down. You can also get help from other people. Housekeeping services will clean your house and other services will deliver groceries and other goods to your home. You may also have friends or family members who can help you with some of the day-to-day activities that are difficult for you.

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Exercise. In general, it is important to keep as physically fit as possible. Moderate aerobic exercise is not only safe but advisable for people with heart failure. Moderate exercise such as walking, climbing stairs, or swimming can help keep you fit. Intense exercise, including weight-lifting and exercises that require you to push against a heavy resistance (like push-ups), are not safe for people with heart failure; these types of exercises can raise your blood pressure and make your heart work harder. You should avoid activities that involve sudden physical exertions that make your heart work a lot harder than it does when you are resting.

Any exercise program you begin should advance gradually. You should discuss the details of your program with your doctor. Your doctor can help you with the type and degree of exercise that is safe for you.

Sex. Most people with heart failure can still have an active sex life. You can ask your doctor if you are healthy enough for sex. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns or if you have heart failure symptoms during sex.

Driving. Most people with heart failure can safely drive a car. However, you should not drive if you are experiencing confusion or taking prescription pain drugs. If you have had a serious arrhythmia or have ever fainted as a result of your heart failure, you should talk with your doctor about your ability to drive.

Travel. In general, all forms of travel are safe for people with mild to moderate heart failure. Always carry the names and phone numbers of your doctors in case you become ill while you're away from home. You may also want to carry a list of your major medical problems and hospitalizations and an up-to-date list of your drugs (including both the names and dosages), in case you must be hospitalized in an unfamiliar hospital. You should bring a supply of drugs for several days longer than your intended trip to make sure that you do not run out.

If you have severe heart failure, you can talk with your doctor before a trip to make sure you know how to prevent problems and stay healthy.

Work. Many people who have heart failure can continue to work full time for many years. Your situation will depend on the cause and severity of your heart failure as well as the demands of your job. Your doctor may help you decide the appropriate level of work you can do. Your doctor may order a stress test to help evaluate the endurance of your heart.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Last Revised April 26, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 26, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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