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Lifestyle Changes for Heart Failure: Small Steps Towards a Healthier Heart

CEO Tinh Phung
Image: Woman enjoying a pool session. Living with heart failure can be challenging, but there are simple lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in managing your symptoms and improving your overall well-being. By...

woman in a pool

Image: Woman enjoying a pool session.

Living with heart failure can be challenging, but there are simple lifestyle changes that can make a big difference in managing your symptoms and improving your overall well-being. By following recommendations on eating patterns, exercise, and other habits, you can slow the progression of the disease and lead a more fulfilling life. Let's explore some of these changes and how they can positively impact your heart health.

Monitoring Your Weight: A Crucial Indicator

Sudden weight gain or loss can be an early sign of heart failure or a worsening condition. It is essential to keep track of your weight and notify your healthcare professional of any significant changes. Weigh yourself at the same time every morning, wearing the same clothes and using the same scale. This consistency will help you accurately monitor your weight and provide valuable information to your healthcare team. Be sure to follow your healthcare professional's recommendations regarding fluid intake and keep them updated on your weight fluctuations.

Quitting Smoking: A Breath of Fresh Air

Smoking has detrimental effects on heart health. Nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure, while carbon monoxide deprives your heart and brain of oxygen. Additionally, smoking reduces your tolerance for physical activity and lowers the levels of good cholesterol in your body. Quitting smoking is a crucial step towards improving your heart health. Seek support from your healthcare professional and consider resources available to help you quit this harmful habit.

Being Physically Active: Strengthening Your Heart

Engaging in regular physical activity can significantly benefit your heart. Any movement that burns calories, such as walking, playing sports, or doing household chores, can contribute to a stronger heart. Start with moderate-intensity exercises, and gradually increase the duration and intensity as advised by your healthcare team. If you're not physically active, consult your healthcare professional to develop an exercise plan tailored to your abilities and health condition.

Getting Enough Rest: Essential for Heart Health

Rest and relaxation play a vital role in supporting your heart's health. Schedule regular periods of rest throughout the day to allow your heart to pump more easily. Consider short naps, elevating your feet, or sitting down while performing tasks that may strain your heart. To improve your sleep at night, use comfortable pillows to prop up your head, avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime, and discuss with your healthcare team whether adjusting your diuretic intake can help reduce nighttime disruptions.

Managing Stress: A Calmer Heart

Stress and anxiety can worsen heart failure symptoms by putting additional strain on your heart. It's crucial to find healthy ways to manage stress and maintain emotional well-being. Instead of turning to harmful habits like smoking, excessive eating, or drugs, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or meditation. Engaging in activities like yoga or joining support networks can also provide valuable emotional support.

Additional Considerations for Heart Health

In addition to the above lifestyle changes, there are other factors to consider when managing heart failure:

  • Tracking Fluid Intake: Your healthcare team may recommend limiting your liquid intake to reduce fluid retention. Consult with them to determine the appropriate amount of fluid you should consume daily.
  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption: If you drink alcohol, it's best to do so in moderation. Discuss with your healthcare professional whether it's safe for you and adhere to the recommended limits.
  • Healthy Eating Habits: Emphasize a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugary beverages.
  • Monitoring Blood Pressure: Regularly monitor your blood pressure at home and share the readings with your healthcare professional. This can help detect and control high blood pressure more effectively.
  • Vaccinations: Protect yourself from influenza and pneumonia by staying up to date with vaccinations. Consult your healthcare team about the appropriate vaccines for you.
  • COVID-19 Safety: If you have cardiovascular risk factors or heart disease, it is advisable to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Reach out to your healthcare team to discuss vaccination options and keep yourself safe.
  • Sexual Activity: Open and honest communication with your healthcare team and partner is essential when it comes to resuming sexual activity after a heart failure diagnosis. Follow their guidance to ensure your safety and enjoyment.

Remember, making these lifestyle changes may not be easy at first, but the positive impact they can have on your heart health and overall well-being is worth the effort. Work closely with your healthcare team to develop a personalized plan that suits your needs and abilities. With small, sustainable changes, you can take control of your heart health and live a more fulfilling life.