What can I do to live well with heart failure?

If you have heart failure, your heart may not be functioning at full capacity. But thereís still a lot you can do to keep it operating at its personal best. Taking charge of your everyday health can improve your symptoms and your overall quality of life.

The key to living well with heart failure is to follow your treatment plan. Your treatment plan is an outline of your overall care strategy for meeting your treatment goals. Think of it as your road map to living with heart failure.

Your personalized treatment recommendations will take into account factors such as your symptoms and stage of heart failure, your cardiovascular-disease risk profile, your personal and family medical history, your lifestyle and health habits, and any other medical conditions you have. An effective plan evolves over time.

Your treatment plan should include:

  • a list of all the drugs youíre taking, plus the schedule and dosage for each
  • information on how to monitor and manage your symptoms, including directions for how to recognize an emergency and when to call the doctor
  • instructions on how to weigh yourself each morning and how to measure your heart rate and blood pressure at home
  • recommendations for following a low-sodium diet
  • guidelines for activity and exercise
  • an assessment of your lifestyle risks (such as tobacco use and excess body weight) and recommendations for making behavior changes
  • guidelines for appropriate alcohol use
  • a schedule for routine care such as regular check-ups, vaccinations, and lab tests.

The best medical advice in the world is useless if you donít follow it. Youíre the one charged with the responsibility for taking your medicines every day, watching for worrisome symptoms, adhering to the proper diet, and weighing yourself daily.