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Heart Failure Survival Skills

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure means the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. Remember the word EDEMA (which means swelling of tissues; edema can be a symptom that your heart failure is worsening). The word EDEMA will help you recall important activities to manage your heart failure

Exercise Regularly. Ask your doctor what type of exercise is best for you. At minimum, exercise by walking a total of 30 minutes a day (include rest intervals as needed), 5 to 6 days a week.

Do Take Your Medications as Prescribed. Keep a list of your medications and bring the list with you to all appointments. Do not stop taking or change medications until you speak with your doctor. Suddenly stopping your medications can make your condition worse.

Enroll in a Stop Smoking Program - if you smoke. For a person with heart failure, smoking and using tobacco causes your blood pressure to rise and increases your risk for heart disease.

Monitor Your Weight and Fluid Intake Daily. Weigh yourself daily at the same time everyday, even if you feel fine and do not have symptoms. Call your doctor if you gain 2 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. Keep a record of daily fluid intake, especially if you are thirsty and are drinking a lot. A general fluid intake goal is 2 liters of fluids or less per day.

Avoid Salt (sodium) - Following a 2000-milligram sodium diet helps control high blood pressure (hypertension), swelling and water build-up (edema), decreases breathing problems and may also help reduce heart failure progression and re-hospitalization.

In addition, managing heart failure requires you to:

Keep Follow-Up Appointments. Regularly see your doctor or health care provider as recommended. These follow-up appointments are necessary to monitor your health, your heart’s response to medications, and address any concerns you may have.

When to go to the Emergency Department

Go to your local Emergency Department or call 9-1-1 if you have:
  • New chest pain or discomfort that is severe, unexpected and occurs with shortness of breath, sweating, nausea or weakness
  • Angina-type chest pain that lasts longer than 15 minutes and is not relieved by rest and/or medication
  • Fast heart rate (more than 120 to 150 beats per minute) especially if you are short of breath
  • Shortness of breath NOT relieved by rest
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis (inability to move) in your arms or legs
  • Sudden onset of a severe headache
  • Fainting spell with loss of consciousness
Ask Questions!

Ask your doctor or nurse if you need advice or more information about:

  • Heart failure, including signs and symptoms to watch for
  • Self-care (diet, exercise, fluid management, monitoring signs and symptoms of worsening condition)
  • Follow-up appointment schedule

Learn more about heart failure.

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

Schedule an Appointment

Toll-free 800.659.7822

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 2014 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.

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