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Quick Tips: Self-Care for Heart Failure - Get started

Heart failure usually gets worse over time. But there are many things you can do to feel better, stay healthy longer, and avoid the hospital.

Self-care means managing your health by doing certain things every day, like weighing yourself. It's about knowing which symptoms to watch for so you can avoid getting worse. When you practice good self-care, you know when it's time to call your doctor and when your heart failure has turned into an emergency. The lists below can help.

Recommended Related to Heart Failure

Understanding Heart Failure -- the Basics

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump blood effectively to the lungs or the rest of the body. This can be because the person has developed a weakened heart muscle or because the heart muscle has thickened or stiffened, making it difficult to fill the heart and backing up blood into the lungs. With heart failure, the weakened heart pumps less blood than usual, causing the kidneys and adrenal glands to produce chemicals that help the body to hold onto salt and water. In...

Read the Understanding Heart Failure -- the Basics article > >

Top five self-care tips for every day

  1. Take your medicines as prescribed. This gives them the best chance of helping you.
  2. Watch for signs that you're getting worse. Weighing yourself every day is one of the best ways to do this. Weight gain may be a sign that your body is holding on to too much fluid. Weigh yourself at the same time each day, using the same scale, on a hard, flat surface. The best time is in the morning after you go to the bathroom and before you eat or drink anything.
  3. Find out what your triggers are, and learn to avoid them. Triggers are things that make your heart failure worse, often suddenly. A trigger may be eating too much salt, missing a dose of your medicine, or exercising too hard.
  4. Limit sodium. This helps keep fluid from building up and makes it easier for your heart to pump. Your doctor may want you to eat less than 2,000 mg of sodium each day. That's less than 1 teaspoon. You can stay under this number by eating fewer processed foods, limiting the salt you add to food, and by watching for "hidden" sodium when you eat out or shop for food.
  5. Try to exercise throughout the week. Exercise makes your heart stronger and can help you avoid symptoms. Walking is a great way to get exercise. If your doctor says it's safe, start out with some short walks, and then slowly build up to longer ones.

When to act

Try to become familiar with signs that mean your heart failure is getting worse. If you need help, talk with your doctor about making a personal plan.

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