Important Steps to Help Improve Your Heart Health
Take Your Medications
- Take all your medications as directed
- Create a system to remember to take your medications, such as:
- Putting your medications by your toothbrush or water faucet.
- Using a pill organizer.
- Setting an alarm for the times you need to take your medications.
Follow a Low-Sodium Diet
- Know your daily sodium limit: Ask your doctor or nurse.
- Eat fresh foods whenever possible.
- Avoid fast food restaurants.
- Avoid the “salty six” (bread products, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, breaded meats and poultry or poultry with added sodium, prepared and canned soups, sandwiches with lunch meat and condiments).
- Staying active is an important part of your care.
- Physical activity keeps your muscles toned and conditioned.
- Walk 5 days per week for 20-30 minutes. Walk at a pace faster than you do when doing normal activities.
Keep your Follow-Up Visits
- See your heart failure doctor or nurse 2 times each year or more often if needed.
- If you are in the hospital, it is important to see your healthcare provider 7 days and 30 days after you leave the hospital, even if you feel fine. Your doctor or nurse may want to make changes to your medications or have you enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation program
Track Your Symptoms
- Know the common signs and symptoms of heart failure, including signs your condition is getting worse.
- Keep track of your symptoms and note any changes.
Save Your Energy
Heart failure can make you more tired than usual and cause you to tire out more quickly. It is important to take steps to keep your energy level up.
Get enough rest. Make sure you get enough sleep at night (7-8 hours is best). You may also want to rest (not nap in bed) at least once a day. While you rest, put your feet up to control swelling in your legs and feet. You may need to take breaks before, during and after activities.
Keep it simple. You may need to change the way you do everyday activities. Try to cut back on some activities or break them into small tasks. If you have trouble meeting your basic self- or home-care needs, talk to your doctor about solutions.
Plan ahead. Take time to schedule your housework, exercise, and social activities so you can be prepared and rested. Don’t schedule too many things in one day. Plan activities at times you have the most energy, and avoid doing things right after you eat.
Ask for help. Talk to friends and family about ways they can help you with chores and errands. You can also talk to your doctor or nurse about helpful tools, like a walker, shower chair, hand-held shower head, bedside commode and items to help you dress yourself (shoe horn, sock donner, dressing stick). You may also want to work with an occupational or rehabilitation specialist.
Zippers and buttons. Choose clothes that have zippers and buttons in the front so you don’t have to reach to your back to get dressed.
Grooming and shaving. Sit while shaving, drying your hair and doing other grooming.
Stairs. If your doctor or nurse says it is all right, you may use stairs. Rest mid-way if you need to, and try to avoid multiple trips up and down.
Avoid heavy lifting. Do not push, pull or lift anything that weighs more than 10 pounds (a gallon of milk weighs about 8.6 pounds).