Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
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This video will help you understand heart failure and how to manage it.
Please watch the entire video to learn how to manage heart failure.
If you've been diagnosed with heart failure, it’s important to control your symptoms.
Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, or CHF, is a lifelong condition in which
your heart continues to work, but not as well as it should.
Your heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to meet the needs of your body.
Excess fluid builds up in the lungs, legs and other body tissues.
Over time, heart failure weakens your heart and can shorten your life.
The symptoms of heart failure include:
shortness of breath,
chronic coughing or wheezing,
swelling of the legs, feet or abdomen,
feeling tired all the time,
nausea or lack of appetite,
and confused thinking.
Fortunately, you can help control your symptoms by: following your doctor’s instructions,
adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle,
and staying aware of changes in your symptoms.
Following the instructions of your health care team is very important in managing your symptoms.
This includes taking your medications, exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
Don’t stop taking your medications or skip doses.
Take note of any side effects and tell your doctor.
If the cost of your medication is an issue, discuss other options with your doctor.
Don’t take any over-the-counter medication or supplement, without asking your doctor if it’s okay.
Make and keep all of your follow-up appointments for both doctor’s visits and lab tests.
Get vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia as directed by your doctor.
Managing your heart failure also means adopting a healthy lifestyle.
You may need to make the following changes:
Limit your salt and sodium intake by doing the following:
Don’t add salt when you cook, or to food at the table.
Avoid processed and fast foods.
Compare food labels and choose the items that are lower in salt and sodium.
Eat a heart-healthy diet, including low-fat, low cholesterol, and high-fiber foods.
A heart-healthy diet helps you maintain or achieve a good blood pressure and weight,
and helps prevent other conditions that may further stress your heart.
Limit your alcohol intake. Ask your doctor if your condition allows you to include any alcohol in your diet.
Monitor your fluid intake from drinks and foods that contain fluid.
Too much fluid makes your heart work harder.
Ask your doctor how much fluid is the right amount for you.
Nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure...
at the same time as it decreases the amount of oxygen rich blood delivered to your body’s tissues.
Become physically active.
Regular exercise through daily activities such as gardening and housework can make you feel better.
Other good exercise options, with your doctor’s approval, are walking, swimming and bicycling.
As you exercise, keep these precautions in mind:
rest as needed,
stop if you feel chest pain or more than usual shortness of breath,
and don’t exercise when temperatures are very hot or very cold.
Your doctor may also prescribe a cardiac rehabilitation program that is a combination
of medically supervised exercise, lifestyle counseling and education.
It is important to stay aware of changes in your symptoms and to know when to get help.
Using the traffic light colors - green, yellow and red - to assess how you feel can help you take the proper action to manage your heart failure symptoms.
Green is your goal and means that your symptoms are under control.
Continue to follow your doctor’s directions and keep all medical appointments.
Weigh yourself daily, to see if your body is retaining fluids.
Do it at the same time each day, before eating or drinking, and wear the same type of clothing.
Record and take note of any changes in your weight.
Symptoms in the yellow zone are warning signs. Call your doctor immediately if you:
gain three or more pounds in one day
or five pounds in one week,
have an increased shortness of breath,
have difficulty sleeping due to trouble breathing,
feel persistent fast or irregular heart beats,
are feeling light-headed or as if you may faint.
Red zone symptoms are emergencies that mean you need medical evaluation right away. Call 911 if you experience:
chest pain that lasts more than fifteen minutes,
severe and ongoing shortness of breath,
coughing up pink, frothy foam,
Staying on top of your symptoms and following your doctor's instructions can help you manage heart failure.