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Heart Failure - Living With Heart Failure

You can feel better when you have heart failure by taking your medicines as directed, having a healthy lifestyle, and avoiding things that make heart failure worse. Know what things you can do every day to stay healthy, what symptoms to watch for, and when to call a doctor.

Ask your doctor if cardiac rehab is right for you. Rehab can give you education and support that help you learn self-care and build new healthy habits, such as exercise and healthy eating.

Quick Tips: Self-Care for Heart Failure

Taking medicines

  • Take your medicines as directed. If you don't, your heart failure may get worse, or you may get sudden heart failure.
    actionset.gif Heart Failure: Taking Medicines Properly
  • Try to avoid medicines that can make your heart failure worse. Before taking any new medicine, ask your doctor or a pharmacist if it's safe to take it with your heart failure medicines.
    actionset.gif Heart Failure: Avoiding Medicines That Make Symptoms Worse
  • Take a low-dose aspirin every day if your doctor advises it to prevent a stroke or heart attack. But higher doses of aspirin may make your heart failure worse. So talk to your doctor first about how much to take.

Having a healthy lifestyle

  • Eat healthy foods.
    Heart Failure: Eating a Healthy Diet
  • Limit sodium. Your doctor might recommend that you limit sodium to less than 2,000 mg a day. Limiting sodium can help you feel better and prevent sudden heart failure. Too much sodium makes it harder for your already-weakened heart to pump. Fluid may build up in your lungs—making it harder for you to breathe—and in your feet, ankles, legs, and belly.
    actionset.gif Healthy Eating: Eating Less Sodium
    actionset.gif Low-Salt Diets: Eating Out
  • Exercise regularly. If you aren't already active, your doctor may want you to start exercising. Do not start exercising until you have talked with your doctor to make an exercise program that is safe for you. You could do it in a cardiac rehabilitation program or on your own.
    actionset.gif Heart Failure: Activity and Exercise
  • Check your weight at the same time every day.
    actionset.gif Heart Failure: Checking Your Weight
  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight. Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly will help you lose weight. Even a few pounds can make a difference.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and makes it harder to exercise. Avoid secondhand smoke too.
  • Limit alcohol. Moderate drinking is no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
  • Limit your fluids if needed.
    actionset.gif Heart Failure: Watching Your Fluids
  • Oxygen treatment. Your doctor may recommend oxygen therapy to reduce your shortness of breath and increase your ability to exercise.
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