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Heart Failure Health Center

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

When to act continued...

Here are some things to watch for as you practice your daily self-care. Call your doctor if:

  • You gain 3 pounds or more over 2 to 3 days. (Or your doctor may tell you how much weight to watch for.)
  • You have new or worse swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs.
  • Your breathing gets worse. Activities that did not make you short of breath before are hard for you now.
  • Your breathing when you lie down is worse than usual, or you wake up at night needing to catch your breath.

Be sure to make and go to all of your follow-up appointments. And it's always a good idea to call your doctor anytime you have a sudden change in symptoms.

When it's an emergency

Sometimes the symptoms get worse very quickly. This is called sudden heart failure. It causes fluid to build up in your lungs.

Sudden heart failure is an emergency. If you have any of these symptoms, you need care right away. Call 911 if:

  • You have severe shortness of breath.
  • You have an irregular or fast heartbeat.
  • You cough up foamy, pink mucus.

Other tips to help you stay healthy

There are other things you can do to take care of your body and your heart. These things will help you feel better. And they will also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Try to stay at a healthy weight. Eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Keep high blood pressure and diabetes under control. If you need help, talk with your doctor.

If your doctor has not set you up with a cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program, talk to him or her about whether that is right for you. Cardiac rehab includes exercise, help with diet and lifestyle changes, and emotional support.

Also let your doctor know if:

  • You're having trouble sleeping. Sleep is important to your well-being. It also helps your heart work the way it's supposed to. Your doctor can help you decide if you need treatment for sleep problems.
  • You're feeling sad and hopeless much of the time or if you are worried and anxious. Heart failure can be hard on your emotions. Treatment with counseling and medicine can help. And when you feel better, you're more likely to take care of yourself.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 28, 2014
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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