Heart Failure: How Can I Help Myself?

Heart failure is a serious condition and being diagnosed with it is frightening. However there are things that you can do to help yourself live a full and active life. This article goes over the things that you can do to help yourself live the best life possible if you suffer from this condition.

The beginning:

Where to start? There are many things that you can do for yourself to ensure that you feel better and stay out of the hospital as much as possible. Not all of these things are easy to do and you may want to as for help to achieve these goals.

The number one piece of advise is to ensure that you take all of the tablets that are prescribed for you by your doctor. Although you may feel as though they are not helping, you do not want to see what will happen if you stop taking them. It is hard to take all of the tablets as often people with this condition can be on over ten different tablets and these are just a few more to remember, however they are so important and an effort must be made to take them everyday. If you do have problems with your medications such as side effects you must talk to your doctor, as there are often other drugs that can be tried instead. Some people find medications easier to take if they do so at the same time everyday and often this can be arranged. Sometimes people find pillboxes helpful and other people write a timetable to help them remember.

This is not an opportunity for a doctor to tell you to stop smoking, however if you have heart failure smoking will almost certainly shorten your life and make your symptoms far worse than they need to be. Often people have been smoking their entire life and although it is very hard to give this up, it will be the single best thing you can do for your health. Stopping smoking will also prevent chest infections and coughing spells. Talking to your family doctor or cardiologist will be beneficial as they can offer you advice and provide you with replacement therapy so that stopping is not as difficult. There are medications that can help you to do this such as Zyban and Champix or you can try gum or nicotine patches from the pharmacy. Remember that not everyone manages to give up the first time and it is ok if it takes you a few goes, but you must give it a go.

Weight is an important factor in heart failure not because you will be getting fatter but because your body will hold onto more fluid. For this reason it is a good idea to weigh yourself everyday and record this in a book. If you put on more than about 4 pounds in three days or notice a sudden weight gain then it is likely that you are holding onto too much water and you will need to see your doctor to get rid of it.

Salt is the food of the devil in heart failure and this is because salt causes your body to hold onto water. Remember that the more water you hold onto the harder it is for your heart to pump the blood around your body. You should try and cut the salt out of your diet wherever possible and make sure that you eat less than a teaspoon a day. Unfortunately food that is low in salt does not always taste as good but you will get used to it after a little while. Try to avoid processed and other convenience foods that are often laden with salt. Remember that not all of the foods that say low salt on them in the supermarket are good for you and you should talk to your doctor before trying these. Generally if you buy fresh foods and cook them yourself then this is the best for you and who knows you may even get some exercise cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

Alcohol should be drunk in moderation unless your doctor has said that this caused your heart failure. You should ask your doctor which of these options is best for you. If you are taking warfarin then you must ask your doctor if it is ok to drink as alcohol can interfere with this medication.

If you are slightly on the overweight side of life and you have been diagnosed with heart failure then you must lose weight. If you are overweight your heart must work much harder to pump the blood around your body, as all of the extra fat in your body has extra blood vessels. You should aim to lose about 1 to 2 pounds every week and you can ask your doctor or dietician for advise on how to do this. It is important not to do anything too radical, as it is unlikely that you will stick to it and will not maintain the weight loss. Exercise is also very important, however you should only do what you are capable of and don’t aim to overexert yourself.

Will my life change?

It is very likely that you will have to make some changes in your life such as those things mentioned above. However just because you have been diagnosed with heart failure does not mean that you should stop living a normal life. Great advice is to stay active and visit family and friends as much as possible. Staying positive is one of the best things that you could do. When your symptoms are well controlled then you should be able to live a relatively active and full life. You should still be able to have sex and if you have difficulty sleeping then you should try using pillows to prop yourself up. It is very important that you contact your doctor if you become short of breath or have trouble doing things that you could normally do. Your doctor is there to help and if you get chest pain, feel as though you are going to pass out or have trouble breathing then you should call 911 right away.

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