It's important to track your condition carefully when you have heart failure. You'll be able to manage your symptoms better if you keep tabs on your health and make some simple tweaks to your everyday habits. Also, ask your doctor if he can remotely monitor your blood pressure, weight, and heart rate. Many doctors now offer this service.
Tip 1: Weigh Yourself Daily
Step on the scale at the same time each day. For example, you could weigh yourself in the morning after you pee but before breakfast. Use the same scale each time, and try to wear similar clothing.
Write your weight down each day in a diary or on a calendar.
Call your doctor if you gain 2 or more pounds in a day or 5 or more in a week. Also call if you see signs that your body is holding on to fluid. How will you notice? Watch for things like your clothes fitting differently or your belly, feet, or ankles swelling.
Your doctor may ask you to try this for a couple of days:
- Cut 500 milligrams of salt from your diet
- Drink less liquid
If neither of these things works, let your doctor know. He may need to adjust your medications.
Tip 2: Watch How Much You Drink
If your doctor wants you to cut back how much fluid you get each day, keep a record of how much you drink. You may need to keep it to 8 cups (which is 64 ounces, or 2 quarts) every 24 hours.
Keep in mind that some foods are considered fluids, too. These include:
- Gelatin (like Jell-O)
- Soups (thin or thick)
- Ice pops
- Ice cream
One way to keep tabs on how much fluid you have is to fill a 2-quart pitcher to the top with water every day and put it in an easy-to-reach place in your kitchen. Every time you drink or eat something that's considered a fluid, remove the same amount of water from the pitcher. When it's empty, you've hit your limit for the day.
Just because you're thirsty doesn't mean your body needs more fluid. If you do get thirsty, but you're near or at your limit of fluids for the day, try this:
- Nibble on frozen grapes or strawberries.
- Suck on ice chips (not cubes), a sucker, or a washcloth soaked in ice-cold water.
- Cover your lips with petroleum jelly, flavored lip balm, or lip moisturizer.
- Suck on hard candy or chew sugarless gum.
Your doctor may also ask you to record how much you pee.
Tip 3: Manage Breathing Problems
If you feel short of breath at night, try this:
- Sleep in a recliner chair.
- Use more pillows.
- Get a cushion for support so that you rest more upright.
To breathe better:
- Listen to your body and slow down when you're short of breath.
- Take breaks throughout the day: read, pay bills, write letters, use the computer for fun.
- Use music, meditation, or yoga to ease stress.
If you feel breathless, short of breath, or you have trouble breathing, talk to your doctor. He may ask you to eat less salt or drink less liquid for a couple of days. If neither of these helps, call your doctor. He may need to tweak your medicine.
Tip 4: See Your Doctor Regularly
Keep all your appointments with your care team. It'll increase your chances of staying on track with your treatment plan. If you have questions about your condition, write them down and take them with you to your appointments. If you have urgent questions, call the doctor.
If you see any other doctor, let him know about your heart failure medications and your diet or fluid restrictions.
When you go to your appointment, take a list of your medications and any allergies you have. If another doctor prescribes any other drugs, call your heart doctor before you take them.
Make sure you know how to treat yourself if you have a virus, the flu, or a fever. Don't take any over-the-counter drugs unless you ask your doctor first. Ask him about getting the flu shot every year and the pneumonia vaccine so you can stay healthy.
Also talk to your doctor if you are having sexual problems or feel depressed.
Tip 5: If You Smoke, Quit
When you have heart failure, using tobacco causes your blood pressure to rise and raises your risk for many other conditions.
If you quit, you will probably:
- Live longer
- Improve your health
- Feel better
- Look better (smoking can cause face wrinkles, stained teeth, yellow-stained fingers, and dull skin)
- Improve your senses of taste and smell
- Save money