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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Heart failure is a condition that does not allow your heart to fill or pump properly. Not enough oxygen in your blood gets to your organs and tissues. Fluid may not move through your body properly. Fluid builds up and causes swelling and trouble breathing. This is known as congestive heart failure. Heart failure may start in the left or right ventricle. Heart failure is often caused by damage or injury to your heart. The damage may be caused by other heart problems, diabetes, or high blood pressure. The damage may have also been caused by an infection. Heart failure is a long-term condition that tends to get worse over time. It is important to manage your health to improve your quality of life.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
- You may also have any of the following:
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
Call your doctor if:
- Your heartbeat is fast, slow, or uneven all the time.
- You have symptoms of worsening heart failure:
- Shortness of breath at rest, at night, or that is getting worse in any way
- Weight gain of 3 or more pounds (1.4 kg) in a day, or more than your healthcare provider says is okay
- More swelling in your legs or ankles
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- More coughing
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling tired all the time
- You feel hopeless or depressed, or you have lost interest in things you used to enjoy.
- You often feel worried or afraid.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- Medicines may be needed to help regulate your heart rhythm. You may also need medicine to lower your blood pressure, and to decrease extra fluids.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Go to cardiac rehab if directed:
Cardiac rehab is a program run by specialists who will help you safely strengthen your heart. The program includes exercise, relaxation, stress management, and heart-healthy nutrition.
Manage swelling from extra fluid:
- Elevate (raise) your legs above the level of your heart. This will help with fluid that builds up in your legs or ankles. Elevate your legs as often as possible during the day. Prop your legs on pillows or blankets to keep them elevated comfortably. Try not to stand for long periods of time during the day. Move around to keep your blood circulating.
- Limit sodium (salt). Ask how much sodium you can have each day. Your healthcare provider may give you a limit, such as 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day. Your provider or a dietitian can teach you how to read food labels for the number of mg in a food. He or she can also help you find ways to have less salt. For example, if you add salt to food as you cook, do not add more at the table.
- Drink liquids as directed. You may need to limit the amount of liquid you drink within 24 hours. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much liquid to have and which liquids are best for you. He or she may tell you to limit liquid to 1.5 to 2 liters in a day. He or she will also tell you how often to drink liquid throughout the day.
- Weigh yourself every morning. Use the same scale, in the same spot. Do this after you use the bathroom, but before you eat or drink. Wear the same type of clothing each time. Write down your weight and call your healthcare provider if you have a sudden weight gain. Swelling and weight gain are signs of fluid buildup.
Manage heart failure:
Your quality of life may improve with treatment and the following:
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung and heart damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. Alcohol and drugs can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
- Eat heart-healthy foods. Heart-healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, lean meat (such as beef, chicken, or pork), and low-fat dairy products. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are also heart healthy. Other heart-healthy foods include walnuts, whole-grain breads, beans, and cooked beans. Replace butter and margarine with heart-healthy oils such as olive oil or canola oil. Your provider or a dietitian can help you create heart-healthy meal plans.
- Manage any chronic health conditions you have. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and COPD. You will have fewer symptoms if you manage these health conditions. Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations and follow up with him or her regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. These conditions can make your symptoms worse. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Stay active. Activity can help keep your symptoms from getting worse. Walking is a type of physical activity that helps maintain your strength and improve your mood. Physical activity also helps you manage your weight. Work with your healthcare provider to create an exercise plan that is right for you.
- Get vaccines as directed. The flu and pneumonia can be severe for a person who has heart failure. Vaccines protect you from these infections. Get a flu shot every year as soon as it is recommended, usually in September or October. You may also need the pneumonia vaccine. Your healthcare provider can tell you if you need other vaccines, and when to get them.
Follow up with your doctor within 7 days or as directed:
You may need to return for other tests. You may need home health care. A healthcare provider will monitor your vital signs, weight, and make sure your medicines are working. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Join a support group:
Heart failure can be difficult to manage. It may be helpful to talk with others who have heart failure. You may learn how to better manage your condition or get emotional support. For more information:
- American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas , TX 75231-4596
Phone: 1- 800 - 242-8721
Web Address: http://www.heart.org
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
Learn more about Heart Failure (Aftercare Instructions)
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