Living with heart failure may not be easy. But there are things you can do to feel better, stay healthy longer, and avoid the hospital.
Good self-care means doing certain things every day, like taking your medicine. It's also about checking for symptoms such as weight gain and swelling. Tracking your symptoms every day will help you know which heart failure zone you're in. That can tell you when you need to get help.
Your daily action plan
Here are some important things to do every day.
Weigh yourself at the same time each day. Keep a calendar by the scale, and write your weight on it every day.
Pay attention to symptoms such as shortness of breath or swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs.
Take your medicines as prescribed. Try to take them at the same time every day.
Limit sodium. Your doctor may want you to eat less than 2,000 mg of sodium each day.
Be active. But watch for signs that your heart is being stressed, and know when to stop and rest.
Check each day to see which heart failure zone you're in.
Green zone. You are doing well. This is where you want to be.
Your weight is stable. This means it is not going up or down.
You breathe easily.
You are sleeping well. You are able to lie flat without shortness of breath.
You can do your usual activities.
Yellow zone. Call your doctor. Your symptoms are changing.
You have new or increased shortness of breath.
You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
You have sudden weight gain, such as more than 2 lb (0.9 kg) to 3 lb (1.4 kg) in a day or 5 lb (2.3 kg) in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
You are so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
You are not sleeping well. Shortness of breath wakes you up at night. You need extra pillows.
Your doctor's name: ____________________________________________________________
Your doctor's contact information: __________________________________________________
Red zone. Call 911. This is an emergency.
You have symptoms of sudden heart failure, such as:
Severe trouble breathing.
Coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
A new irregular or fast heartbeat.
You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
Shortness of breath.
Nausea or vomiting.
Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
A fast or irregular heartbeat.
If you have symptoms of a heart attack: After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
More self-care tips
There are other things you can do to take care of your body and your heart.
Try to stay at a healthy weight. Eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
If you smoke, quit.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Keep high blood pressure and diabetes under control. If you need help, talk with your doctor.
Talk to your doctor if you feel sad and hopeless much of the time or if you are worried and anxious. These may be signs of depression or anxiety. Treatment with counseling and medicine can help.
When you take charge of your health, you're more likely to feel better and keep your heart failure from getting worse.