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 DCI Home: Heart & Vascular Diseases: Heart Failure: Living With

      Heart Failure
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Living With Heart Failure

Heart failure can't be cured. You will likely have to take medicine and follow a treatment plan for the rest of your life.

Despite treatment, symptoms may get worse over time. You may not be able to do many of the things that you did before you had heart failure. However, if you take all the steps your doctor recommends, you can stay healthier longer.

Researchers also may find new treatments that can help you in the future.

Follow Your Treatment Plan

Treatment can relieve your symptoms and make daily activities easier. It also can reduce the chance that you'll have to go to the hospital. For these reasons, it's vital that you follow your treatment plan.

  • Take all of your medicines as your doctor prescribes. If you have side effects from a medicine, tell your doctor. You should never stop taking medicine without asking your doctor first.
  • Make all of the lifestyle changes that your doctor recommends.
  • Get advice from your doctor about how active you can/should be. This includes advice on daily activities, work, leisure time, sex, and exercise. Your level of activity will depend on the stage of your heart failure (how severe it is). Studies show that aerobic exercise improves heart function; other types of exercise don't.
  • Keep all of your medical appointments, including visits to the doctor and appointments to get tests and lab work. Your doctor needs the results of these tests to adjust your medicine doses and help you avoid any harmful side effects.

Take Steps To Prevent Heart Failure From Getting Worse

Certain factors can cause your heart failure to worsen. These include:

  • Forgetting to take your medicines
  • Not following your diet (such as eating salty foods)
  • Drinking alcohol

These factors can lead to a hospital stay. If you have trouble following your diet, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help arrange for a dietitian to work with you. Avoid drinking alcohol.

People with heart failure often have other serious conditions that require ongoing treatment. If you do, you're likely taking medicines for them as well as for heart failure. Taking more than one medicine raises the risk of side effects and other problems. Make sure your pharmacist has a complete list of all of the medicines and over-the-counter products that you're taking.

Tell your doctor right away about any problems with your medicines. Also, talk with your doctor before taking any new medicine another doctor prescribes or any new over-the-counter medicines or herbal supplements.

Try to avoid respiratory infections like the flu and pneumonia. Ask your doctor or nurse about getting flu and pneumonia vaccines.

Coping with heart failure and changing your life to decrease symptoms can be hard. You may feel depressed. If so, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend treatment for depression. This treatment can improve your outlook and help you enjoy life more.

Plan Ahead

Be ready to meet your health needs. Know:

  • When to seek help. Talk to your doctor about when to make an office visit or when to get urgent help.
  • Phone numbers for your doctor and hospital.
  • Directions to the doctor's office or hospital and people who can take you there.
  • A list of medicines you're taking.

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