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.
Drug therapy to lower blood pressure has been shown to reduce heart failure rates by 40%-60%.
Reducing blockages in the coronary arteries with anti-cholesterol drugs has been shown to reduce heart failure rates by 30%.
Early diagnosis and treatment of heart-valve abnormalities can prevent heart failure caused by chronic volume overload of the heart's left chamber.
Take your medicines as prescribed. This gives them the best chance of helping you.
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.
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.
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.
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.