Anyone with heart failure knows that the name can be a little misleading. Your heart hasn’t stopped beating; it’s just not quite as effective as it should be. In other words, it’s failing to pump blood to every part of your body, not failing to work entirely. You probably also know that heart failure is progressive, meaning it can get worse over time, especially if you aren’t taking the necessary steps to maintain your health. Learn about changes you can make in your life to stave off further damage to this vital organ.
Cardiovascular exercise gets the blood pumping and strengthens the heart. To avoid putting too much stress on your heart, choose low-intensity workouts, such as brisk walks or swimming. Don’t do anything that will take your breath away. Always be sure to consult your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.
When you experience heart failure, some of your organs and extremities may receive less blood because the heart no longer has the strength to move it to all of the right places. One such organ is the kidney, which tries to make up for the smaller volume of blood it’s receiving by releasing hormones that cause the body to retain extra liquid and sodium. Additionally, your blood and these fluids can pool in certain areas. Excess fluid in the body can be a sign of worsening heart failure, and you can detect this through rapid weight gain. Be sure to weigh yourself right after you use the restroom each morning. Track your weight, and if you notice fluctuations, schedule an appointment with your doctor. The excess fluid tends to pool in your lower extremities, so track any swelling you might experience and report that to your doctor as well.
To keep your heart as healthy as possible, choose fresh foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables, and avoid any processed, fried, or sodium-rich foods. Because heart failure can cause you to retain liquid, moderate your daily fluid intake. Speak with your doctor to find the right amount of liquid you can drink per day.
When your heart has difficulty pumping blood to your entire body, it will choose the more vital parts to send blood to and ignore others. Your heart has to put in extra effort to reach distant appendages, so far-away extremities, such as your feet, may not be getting adequate blood flow. Elastic bands at the tops of socks can further impede circulation, so choose socks and clothing that isn’t too tight to make sure your feet are getting as much blood as possible.
For more information about managing your heart failure on a day-to-day basis, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group cardiologist. If you experience any chest pain, trouble breathing, or other troubling symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek treatment at a St. Luke’s emergency room. Download our Heart Failure Symptom Stoplight to know when and where to get help.
American Heart Association | What is Heart Failure?
American Heart Association | Living with Heart Failure and Managing Advanced HF
American Heart Association | Physical Changes to Report for Heart Failure
Everyday Health | How to Live Longer With Heart Failure
Everyday Health | 8 Tips for Staying Safe at Home With Heart Failure
Harvard Health Publishing | Fluid retention: What it can mean for your heart
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