In recognition of Heart Disease Awareness month, learn about heart failure, its symptoms, and how to minimize your risk and manage symptoms.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure means the heart is not pumping as well as it should. It occurs when the heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Heart failure is a condition that gets worse over time and does not have a cure. However, many people lead a full life when their heart failure is managed with medications and a healthy lifestyle.
Symptoms of heart failure
Recognizing symptoms early is the best way to prevent complications and stay well. If you notice any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor right away:
- Shortness of breath with activity, rest or sleeping
- Difficulty breathing when lying flat (you may need to sleep on two or more pillows)
- Waking up tired or feeling anxious and restless
- Coughing or wheezing that doesn’t stop – cough may produce a white or pink blood-tinged mucus
- Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen
- Weakness and lack of energy to do normal things such as shopping, climbing stairs or walking
- Lack of appetite and feeling sick in your stomach
- Confusion, trouble thinking or memory loss
- A feeling that your heart is racing or throbbing
Monitoring and managing symptoms
If you are diagnosed with heart failure, follow all the orders that your doctor gives you. Make any necessary changes in diet, exercise and routine to give you the best possible quality of life.
- Based on your doctor’s recommendation, lose or maintain your weight. Tracking your weight each day is an important part of managing heart failure symptoms. Weigh yourself each morning and track your weight by writing it down. If you gain two or more pounds in a day or five pounds in a week, contact your doctor right away.
- If you smoke, quit smoking. Each puff of nicotine from tobacco smoke temporarily increases your blood pressure and heart rate. People who quit smoking are more likely to have their heart failure symptoms improve.
- Track your daily fluid intake. When your body is retaining fluid, you may be asked to limit how much fluid you drink.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Eat a heart healthy diet.
- Get active. Exercise daily as tolerated.
- Manage your stress.
- Get vaccinated against flu and pneumonia.
It is very important to take all your medications as your doctor prescribes. The use of heart failure medications has been shown to prolong life and improve heart function.
If you have questions about heart failure or would like to take steps to help prevent heart disease, be sure to discuss this with your doctor or Landmark provider.