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Living With Heart Failure

Currently, heart failure has no cure. You'll likely have to take medicine and follow a treatment plan for the rest of your life.

Despite treatment, symptoms may get worse over time. You may not be able to do many of the things that you did before you had heart failure. However, if you take all the steps your doctor recommends, you can stay healthier longer.

Researchers also might find new treatments that can help you in the future.

Follow Your Treatment Plan

Treatment can relieve your symptoms and make daily activities easier. It also can reduce the chance that you'll have to go to the hospital. Thus, it's important that you follow your treatment plan.

  • Take your medicines as your doctor prescribes. If you have side effects from any of your medicines, tell your doctor. He or she might adjust the dose or type of medicine you take to relieve side effects.
  • Make all of the lifestyle changes that your doctor recommends.
  • Get advice from your doctor about how active you can and should be. This includes advice on daily activities, work, leisure time, sex, and exercise. Your level of activity will depend on the stage of your heart failure (how severe it is).
  • Keep all of your medical appointments, including visits to the doctor and appointments to get tests and lab work. Your doctor needs the results of these tests to adjust your medicine doses and help you avoid harmful side effects.

Take Steps To Prevent Heart Failure From Getting Worse

Certain actions can worsen your heart failure, such as:

  • Forgetting to take your medicines
  • Not following your diet (for example, eating salty foods)
  • Drinking alcohol

These actions can lead to a hospital stay. If you have trouble following your diet, talk with your doctor. He or she can help arrange for a dietitian to work with you. Avoid drinking alcohol.

People who have heart failure often have other serious conditions that require ongoing treatment. If you have other serious conditions, you're likely taking medicines for them as well as for heart failure.

Taking more than one medicine raises the risk of side effects and other problems. Make sure your doctors and your pharmacist have a complete list of all of the medicines and over-the-counter products that you're taking.

Tell your doctor right away about any problems with your medicines. Also, talk with your doctor before taking any new medicine prescribed by another doctor or any new over-the-counter medicines or herbal supplements.

Try to avoid respiratory infections like the flu and pneumonia. Ask your doctor or nurse about getting flu and pneumonia vaccines.

Plan Ahead

If you have heart failure, it's important to know:

  • When to seek help. Ask your doctor when to make an office visit or get emergency care.
  • Phone numbers for your doctor and hospital.
  • Directions to your doctor's office and hospital and people who can take you there.
  • A list of medicines you're taking.

Emotional Issues and Support

Living with heart failure may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking to a professional counselor also can help. If you're very depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.

Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with heart failure. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk with your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.

Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.

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March 27, 2014