Managing Other Conditions When You Have Heart Failure: Care Instructions

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The heart

Your Care Instructions

All the systems in your body rely on each other to work properly. Heart failure has effects all through your body that can lead to other problems, such as kidney disease. The reverse is also true. A condition like diabetes or lung disease can damage or stress your heart and cause heart failure. Managing any other problems can help reduce your heart's workload and make your heart failure better.

Conditions that commonly cause or occur along with heart failure include high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), high cholesterol, kidney problems, anemia, and arthritis.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Steps to help with heart failure and other problems

  • Eat less salt (sodium). This helps keep fluid from building up. It may help you feel better. Limiting sodium can also help if you have high blood pressure or kidney disease.
  • Watch your fluid intake if your doctor tells you to. Reducing fluids can ease your heart's workload and keep your sodium level in balance.
  • Get regular exercise. Regular, moderate exercise, such as walking, helps your heart. It can also help lower your blood pressure, lower stress, and help you lose weight.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Losing weight can help you manage diabetes, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level, and reduce the workload on your heart.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking stresses your lungs, interferes with healing, and can make heart failure worse.
  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure. Ask your doctor how much, if any, is safe.

If your doctor has not set you up with a cardiac rehab program, talk to him or her about whether that is right for you. Cardiac rehab includes exercise, help with diet and lifestyle changes, and emotional support.

To stay as healthy as possible

  • Work closely with your doctor. Have all your tests, and go to all your appointments.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. You will take medicines to treat the other conditions you have along with heart failure. It can be hard to balance the treatment for all your conditions. You will need to have follow-up tests to make sure that all your medicines are working well together. Talk to your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • Keep all your doctors informed about your health problems and all the medicines you take for them. Medicines that can treat one condition may make another condition worse.
  • Talk to your doctor before you take any vitamins, over-the-counter drugs, or herbal products. Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) unless you talk to your doctor first. They could make your heart failure and other problems worse.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 if you have symptoms of sudden heart failure, such as:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You cough up pink, foamy mucus.
  • You have a new irregular or rapid heartbeat.

Call 911 if you have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
  • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have sudden weight gain, such as more than 1 to 1.3 kilograms in a day or 2 kilograms in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • You are suddenly so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you develop new symptoms.

Where can you learn more?

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