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Hearing that you or someone you love has heart failure can be frightening.
But living with heart failure doesn’t mean your heart is going to stop working right away. Many people with heart failure can control the condition with medications and lifestyle changes.
In the United States, more than 6 million people are living with heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Heart failure is a chronic condition that occurs when your heart is unable to keep up with its workload of providing enough oxygen rich blood to your body. The condition develops over time and can come as a result of a heart attack, high blood pressure or other coronary diseases. Other factors such as smoking, diabetes, a diet high in fat and cholesterol, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity can increase someone’s risk for heart failure.
Your doctor may recommend medications or lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or adopting a low-fat, low-sodium diet to help manage your condition. In some cases, surgical procedures (such as inserting a cardiac defibrillator) may also be recommended.
In the most severe cases, a heart transplant may be an option. But for many, medications and lifestyle changes are recommended.
If you are living with heart failure, your daily observations (and the observations of your loved ones or caregivers) are key to managing your health. Your physician will likely ask you to track your symptoms, weigh yourself daily and report any changes. For example, your doctor will want to know about any sudden weight gain, changes in your sleep patterns or swelling in your ankles or feet.
The American Heart Association has a helpful tool that divides symptoms into three categories: green (stable); yellow (consult with your physician) and red (seek emergency help). The American Heart Association also offers a mobile app to help heart failure patients track their symptoms and set medication reminders.
If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, talk to your doctor about a strategy to help you deal with symptoms that might come up. Having a strategy and knowing what to do in advance will help you and your caregivers if you begin to experience any changes in your condition.
Your doctor also may discuss lifestyle changes that could help you. For example, you may be asked to adopt a low-sodium diet or to quit smoking.
And though heart failure may leave you thinking that you can’t be active, many patients are able to return to their active lifestyle.
Cardiac rehab is often recommended after a cardiac event to help patients return to an active lifestyle or begin to incorporate exercise into their routine. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of low to moderate exercise three to five days a week. Discuss ways to add exercise to your daily routine with your doctor.
Living with heart failure doesn’t have to be a daunting challenge if you communicate with your care team and make healthy lifestyle changes.
Your heart is in expert hands when you choose Edward-Elmhurst Heart Hospital for your cardiovascular care. Learn why for us, this is personal.
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