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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Heart failure means your heart has become too weak to pump enough blood to your organs and tissues. Heart failure is often the result of damage or injury to your heart caused by other heart problems and high blood pressure. 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. Heart failure can be worsened by heavy alcohol use, smoking, diabetes, and obesity.
Call 911 if:
- You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
- Trouble breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing
Return to the emergency department if:
- You gain 3 or more pounds (1.4 kg) in a day, or more than your healthcare provider says you should.
- Your heartbeat is fast, slow, or uneven all the time.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- 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 5 or more pounds (2.2 kg) in a week
- 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.
You may need any of the following:
- Heart medicines help regulate your heart rhythm, lower your blood pressure, and get rid of extra fluids.
- Antiplatelets , such as aspirin, help prevent blood clots. Take your antiplatelet medicine exactly as directed. These medicines make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. If you are told to take aspirin, do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead.
- Blood thinners help prevent blood clots. Examples of blood thinners include heparin and warfarin. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. The following are general safety guidelines to follow while you are taking a blood thinner:
- Watch for bleeding and bruising while you take blood thinners. Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth on your skin, and a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth. This can keep your skin and gums from bleeding. If you shave, use an electric shaver. Do not play contact sports.
- Tell your dentist and other healthcare providers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.
- Do not start or stop any medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Many medicines cannot be used with blood thinners.
- Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.
- Warfarin is a blood thinner that you may need to take. The following are things you should be aware of if you take warfarin.
- Foods and medicines can affect the amount of warfarin in your blood. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and certain other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you are taking warfarin.
- You will need to see your healthcare provider for follow-up visits when you are on warfarin. You will need regular blood tests. These tests are used to decide how much medicine you need.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him 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.
Follow up with your healthcare provider or cardiologist as directed:
You may need to return for other tests. You may need a healthcare provider to visit you in your home. He 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.
Go to cardiac rehab as 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. Healthcare providers will also make sure your medicines are helping to reduce your symptoms.
Manage heart failure:
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage and make heart failure difficult to manage. 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.
- Limit or do not drink alcohol. Ask your cardiologist if it is safe for you to drink any alcohol. If it is safe, you must limit the amount you drink. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
- 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 anything. Wear the same type of clothing. Do not wear shoes. Record your weight each day so you will notice any sudden weight gain. Swelling and weight gain are signs of fluid retention. If you are overweight, ask how to lose weight safely.
- Check your blood pressure and heart rate every day. Ask for more information about how to measure your blood pressure and heart rate correctly. Ask what these numbers should be for you. Check your blood sugar as directed if you have diabetes. You will have fewer symptoms if you manage other health conditions such as high blood pressure, COPD, or diabetes.
- Eat heart-healthy foods and limit sodium (salt). An easy way to do this is to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer canned and processed foods. Replace butter and margarine with heart-healthy oils such as olive oil and canola oil. Other heart-healthy foods include walnuts, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are also heart healthy. Ask how much salt you can eat each day. Do not use salt substitutes.
- Drink liquids as directed. You may need to limit the amount of liquids you drink if you retain fluid. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
- Stay active. If you are not active, your symptoms are likely to worsen quickly. Walking, bicycling, and other types of physical activity help maintain your strength and improve your mood. Physical activity also helps you manage your weight.
- Get vaccines as directed. Get a flu shot every year. You may also need the pneumonia vaccine. The flu and pneumonia can be severe for a person who has heart failure. Vaccines protect you from these infections.
Join a support group:
Living with heart failure can be difficult. It may be helpful to talk with others that 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.