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Treatment - General Guidelines for Coping with Heart Failure

By making lifestyle and activity changes, you can take an active role in treating your heart failure and can help improve your health.

Now that I feel better, when can I return to my regular activities?

You can resume your regular activities as soon as you feel better, but follow your doctor’s or nurse’s activity guidelines. Increase your activities slowly and always listen to your body so you know when it’s time to take a rest break.

Returning to work

If you have been in the hospital for your heart failure, your doctor or nurse will tell you how soon you can return to work after you go home. Your return to work will be based on your overall health, symptoms and your rate of recovery.

You should try to work as long as you are able. If you have a job that requires a lot of physical work, you may need to change some of your job-related activities. This may involve job retraining or taking disability.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about the type of job you have. Your doctor can help you decide if your job will affect your heart condition and if you need to make changes.

Plan periods of rest

Be sure to get plenty of rest. You may need to plan at least one rest period every day. When you rest, keep your feet up to keep the swelling down. Also make sure that you rest during any non-work activities.

Conserve your energy

Using less energy with daily tasks can help you have more energy to do more activities during the day. You may need to cut down on some of your activities or use energy-saving devices or techniques. If daily self care or home care activities are too tiring, discuss this with your doctor or nurse.

Here are some energy-conserving tips:

  • Simplify your tasks and set realistic goals. Don’t think you have to do things the same way you’ve always done them.
  • Plan your activities (chores, exercise, and recreation) ahead of time. Do not schedule too many things to do in one day. Do the things that take more energy when you are feeling your best.
  • If necessary, rest before and after activities.
  • If you become tired during an activity, stop and rest. You may need to finish it on another day or when you feel less tired.
  • Do not plan activities right after a meal.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Be careful not to nap too much during the day or you might not be able to sleep at night.
  • Ask for help. Divide the tasks among family and friends.
  • If needed, use devices and tools that assist you such as a walker, shower chair, hand-held shower head, bedside commode, or long-handled tools for dressing (such as a dressing stick, shoe horn or sock donner).
  • Wear clothes that have zippers and buttons in the front so you don’t have to reach behind you.
  • Do all of your grooming (shaving, drying your hair, etc.) while sitting.
  • If your doctor or nurse says it’s ok, you may climb steps. You may need to rest part of the way if you become tired. Try to arrange your activities so you do not have to climb up and down stairs many times during the day.
  • Avoid extreme physical activity. Do not push, pull, or lift heavy objects (more than 10 pounds) that require you to strain.
  • For more energy-saving tips, tell your doctor or nurse you would like to speak to an occupational therapist or cardiac rehabilitation specialist.

Take care of your emotional health

Your diagnosis of heart failure, your symptoms and your concern for the future may cause you and your loved ones to feel depressed or worried. Your concerns are normal. As you begin taking charge of your health and making positive changes, you may find these feelings start to fade. However, if negative feelings continue and interfere with your ability to enjoy life, talk to your doctor. Counseling might help you feel better.

Tips to help you deal with emotional blues:

  • Get dressed every day.
  • Get out and walk every day.
  • Keep up with activities or hobbies you enjoy.
  • Share your feelings with your spouse, a friend, or clergy.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Follow your treatment plan.
  • Set and follow a realistic daily schedule.

Traveling and vacations

You may travel as soon as you are feeling better, but always let your doctor or nurse know when you plan to go and provide a phone number where you can be reached.

By following these traveling tips, your vacation will be worry free:

  • Always take all of your medications with you and make sure you have enough medications to last through out your trip.
  • If you are traveling by plane, carry your medications with you. Never check them with your luggage. You may need a letter from your health care provider that verifies all of your medications, especially if you are traveling internationally. Pack this letter with your medications.
  • Use the same reminder systems on vacation as you use at home (e.g. pill box or alarm clock).
  • Always wear your Emergency Medical Identification.
  • Make sure you have your doctor’s or nurse’s phone number.
  • Be careful to avoid infection when traveling. In areas where the water might be unsafe drink bottled water or other beverages (order beverages without ice). Swim only in chlorinated pools.
  • Select food and drink with care to avoid illness. It is easy to overeat and to take in too much sodium when you are away from home routines, especially while eating meals at restaurants. Follow the tips for eating out in the low-sodium diet section of this handbook.
Reviewed on: 4/09/2013…#8132

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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.

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