Live Well and Live Strong with Heart Failure

Self-Care Guide to Taking Control of Your Health
What Is Heart Failure?

Many people are confused about what heart failure means. Heart failure does not mean your heart has stopped or is about to stop. It means your heart does not pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
You may feel tired and weak. You may not want to eat. You may experience swelling in your legs, feet, or abdomen; fluid in your lungs; and weight gain. You may feel short of breath.
Heart failure is serious, and there usually is no cure for it. But you can take control. You can manage the symptoms and learn to Live Well and Live Strong with heart failure.
What Causes Heart Failure? 
Heart failure can occur when other problems make the heart weak or stiff so that it can’t pump blood as well as it should. Common causes include:
  • Coronary artery disease or clogged arteries (the most common)
  • A previous heart attack (of which you may or may not have been aware)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart valve damage or disease
  • Infection of the heart muscle
  • Alcohol abuse or heavy drinking
  • Sometimes other, unknown causes
When possible, it is important to know what led to heart failure. Knowing the cause may help you take better care of yourself. If you do not know the cause, ask your doctor. 
Managing Your Medicines

Your medications are important. They play a key role in treating heart failure. They can also stop it from getting worse. Always take your medicines as directed by your doctor.
Your doctor may prescribe several different medications to treat your heart failure. It is up to you to follow your medication plan.
You may be taking a medicine to lower your blood pressure. This will make it easier for your heart to pump, and it improves blood flow.

Beta-blocking medications lower your blood pressure as well as slow your heart rate. These may strengthen your heart’s pumping action over time. You may be asked to take a diuretic, sometimes called a “water pill.” This helps your body get rid of excess water and reduces swelling and shortness of breath.

Other medicines may be ordered as well. It is important for your well-being to take all your medications as directed.
Helpful Hints
  • Follow a routine when taking your medications.
  • Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicine. 
  • Carry a current list of all your prescribed medications as well as any over-the-counter medicines
  • with you at all times.
  • Don’t stop taking your medications without your doctor’s okay.
  • Only your doctor can tell you what treatment is right for you.
Healthy Choices Can Be Fun!
  • Eat less salt—take the salt shaker off the table.
  • Season food with pepper, lemon, garlic, or onion to add flavor.
  • Keep in mind that processed foods can be high in salt.
  • Read the label—see how many milligrams (mg) of sodium are in each serving before you eat it.
  • Fresh is best!
If You’re Told to Limit Fluid… 
Measure before you drink. This will help you keep your daily fluid goal.  Your doctor may ask you to restrict caffeine and alcohol. It is up to you to follow your doctor’s advice.
Live Well and Live Strong with Heart Failure
Your heart muscle needs exercise to help it work. When you stay active, you may also feel less tired and have fewer symptoms.  Staying active can help you feel better about yourself and your health.
Tips for Staying Active
  • Plan activities.
  • Stop and rest if you feel tired or short of breath.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Learn your limits—you may have good days and bad days.
Ask your doctor to help you develop activity guidelines or even an exercise plan.
Stop activity and call your doctor if you experience chest pain, arm pain, or heaviness or pressure in your chest, neck, or jaw, or if you have trouble catching your breath.
What Do I Need to Know to Live Well and Live Strong?
Your doctor and nurses will help you understand what your role is in keeping your heart failure under control:
  • Take your medicines as directed by your doctor.
  • Lower your salt (sodium) intake and eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Stay active—get regular exercise.
  • If you smoke, quit! We can help!
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Weigh yourself daily and take action if your weight goes up.
  • Keep daily track of how you are doing.
  • Reduce your stress level.

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