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Living Well With Heart Failure

by Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

Some nutritional supplements should also be avoided, particularly those that contain ephedra (ma huang) or ephedrine. But all over-the-counter medicines, including vitamins and herbal supplements, should be discussed with your health-care provider since some can interfere with the medicines used to treat heart failure.

Lifestyle measures
Many of the same healthy lifestyle habits that can help control diabetes can also help to manage and prevent progression of heart failure. These include following a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity that is appropriate to your level of fitness, being screened for sleep apnea (and treated, if you have it), and making and keeping regular appointments with your health-care providers. Here are a few specifics to keep in mind:

Food choices. Meeting with a registered dietitian is recommended for individualized advice on making healthy food choices. You should not assume that you will have to give up all of your favorite foods, but it is likely that you’ll be advised to cut back on sodium since sodium can contribute to fluid retention. Reading food labels and fast-food and chain restaurant nutrition information (usually available online or by asking at the restaurant) will allow you to assess how much sodium you’re getting in the foods you eat. In general, people with heart failure are advised to consume no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day.

Physical activity. Exercise can help people with heart failure improve their quality of life. However, there is no one-size-fits-all exercise recommendation for people with heart failure. Ideally, your health-care provider should refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation center so you can meet with a professional who can assess your capacity for exercise. Together, you can come up with a plan that fits your medical and personal needs.

Weigh yourself every day. Weighing yourself every day is recommended not primarily for weight control but to check whether you are retaining fluid. A weight gain of 3 or more pounds in one day or 5 or more pounds in one week indicates that you are retaining fluid and that you should call your health-care provider promptly for advice.

When you weigh yourself, use the same scale each time, weigh yourself at about the same time of day, and wear about the same amount of clothes each time. The best time to weigh yourself is when you wake up in the morning, before you have eaten anything but after you have urinated.

Listen to your body. If you are feeling tired, slow down and rest. Some people find that taking an afternoon rest helps them feel better. When traveling, don’t hesitate to request a wheelchair at airports and other venues where such assistance is available. These days, even some grocery stores have mobility scooters available for use by customers. Take advantage of this help if it will help you get where you want to go.

Other treatments
For people with sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the gold standard for treatment. Using a CPAP device requires wearing a mask while sleeping; the mask is connected to a machine that holds the airway open with gentle air pressure. If you find your mask doesn’t fit or is uncomfortable, talk with your provider about trying other sizes or models. There are several different options, and using the CPAP machine regularly is key to getting sustained benefits.

In some cases, surgery is performed to stop or prevent further damage to the heart and improve its function. There are a number of possible surgical approaches, including the following:

  • Coronary artery bypass surgery is done to improve circulation to the heart.
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    Also in this article:
    The Heart



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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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