Have you been diagnosed with heart failure? Do you want to know what you should be doing to manage this life-long condition effectively? Here are some top tips you should be following to ensure you can live confidently with heart failure and reduce the risk of requiring hospital readmissions.
1. Weigh yourself every day after going to the bathroom.
Weight gain is one of the first signs of acute heart failure because it means that you could be retaining fluid. Keep a daily record of your body weight and if you gain more that 2kg in two days you should call your heart failure clinic or doctor immediately.
If you notice sudden weight gain, check your ankles, legs, and abdomen for swelling which could be a sign of oedema – the buildup of fluid in your tissues. It is important to contact your heart failure clinic or doctor immediately as they can make the necessary interventions before you require hospitalisation.
2. Monitor your blood pressure.
Persistent high blood pressure can put strain on your heart causing it to get weaker and work less efficiently. If you experience symptoms of low blood pressure, such as dizziness, then it could mean that your medications need to be adjusted. You can easily check your blood pressure at home with a home blood pressure monitor. Upper arm cuffs are recommended over wrist devices.
3. Take your medication as prescribed.
This may seem obvious, but you may have been prescribed several medications to manage symptoms of your heart failure. If you sometimes forget to take your medication, consider setting reminders on your phone or use sticky notes, and pill organisers to stay on track
4. Take regular exercise.
Regular aerobic exercise strengthens the heart muscle while resistance training improves skeletal muscle strength which offloads the work of the heart. Regular exercise can reduce the burden of symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue and increase your functional capacity and quality of life. This is a summary of the exercise prescription guidelines for patients with heart failure as outlined by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (2021):
|Type of training||Description||Intensity||Frequency||Duration|
|Cardiorespiratory endurance||Dynamic activities involving large muscle groups||40-80% of HRR
|Minimum of 3 days/week but preferably on most days of the week||20-60 min/session|
|Resistance training||8-10 muscle specific exercises involving resistance bands, weight machines, handheld weights, or combination; begin with one set of 10-15 repetitions||50-70% 1RM for lifts involving hips and lower body;
40-70% 1RM for lifts involving the upper body
|2 or 3 days/week||20-30 min/session; contraction should be performed in a rhythmical manner at a moderate to slow controlled speed|
5. Check your diet.
Reduce salt intake – Salt causes extra fluid to accumulate in your body and can worsen heart failure. Choose low-salt or no added salt options when doing the grocery shopping. Avoid fast food and adding salt to your meals.
Check what sodium and fluid intake restrictions have been advised by your own heart failure clinic.
Written by James Murray, Cardiac Physiotherapist