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Congestive Heart Failure

Taking Control

  •  Buy foods that are labeled “salt-free,” “low sodium.” Remember that low sodium does not mean NO salt.
  • Take the saltshaker off the table.
  • Don’t add salt when cooking. Try pepper, onion, lemon, garlic, vinegar, herbs and spices instead.
  • Choose low-sodium foods, including fresh vegetables, fruits and lean meats.
  • Stabilize and perhaps reduce your symptoms
  • Help you live longer
  • Allow you to increase your activity
  • Keep you out of the hospital.
  • Take your medicines at the same time each day. Do not skip doses or stop medicine without talking to your doctor.
  • Refill prescriptions before they run out.
  • Notify your doctors if you experience side effects such as dizziness, increased weakness, fatigue, muscle cramps, persistent dry cough, nausea, poor appetite, nausea, vision changes or any other symptoms.

WakeMed Heart & Vascular features a comprehensive Congestive Heart Failure Program designed to help patients manage this chronic disease.  Managing Congestive Heart Failure results in a higher quality of life.

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, there are many things you can do to help yourself. It is possible to feel well and lead a normal life by taking control of your heart failure by doing the following.

Weighing Daily: Weigh each morning after using the bathroom. Keep a weight diary by writing your weight down each morning. If you gain two pounds overnight or three to five pounds in a week, notify your doctor.

Limiting Salt/Sodium: Heart failure causes the body to hold onto salt/sodium, which causes extra fluid to build up in your body. This fluid makes your heart work harder and causes the symptoms of heart failure. It is recommended that a person with Heart Failure have not more than 2000 mg of sodium a day. Below are tips for you to stay within the recommended amount.

When reading food labels, check both the amount of salt/sodium and the serving size. Avoid foods that have more than 350 mg of sodium per serving.

Managing Fluid Intake: Drinking too much fluid can cause fluid build-up in the body. For most people who have heart failure, fluid intake should be limited to 11⁄2 to 2 quarts a day. Your doctor will tell you how much fluid you should drink.

Taking Prescribed Medications: Your doctor may prescribe a combination of medicines to treat your heart failure. These medicines will:

These medications may include pills to reduce fluid build-up and blood pressure reduction, and medicine to improve the way your heart works.

Engaging in Physical Actitivity: Staying active can help decrease your symptoms, make you feel better and improve your sense of well-being. Ask your doctor about activities appropriate for you.

Keeping Doctor's Appointments: Regular check-ups with your doctor will help you keep your heart failure under control.

Things to Avoid

Alcohol: Alcohol has a direct effect on the heart muscle. It decreases the strength of the heart’s contraction in an already weakened heart.

Smoking: Cigarette smoking can damage and weaken the heart. You should avoid all forms of tobacco, including second-hand smoke.

Drugs: There are some prescription and over-thecounter medicines that should be avoided or taken with caution. These drugs can make heart failure symptoms worse by interacting with medicines or causing you to retain fluid. They include nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) including Ibuprofen, Naproxen and Ketoprofen.

Herbal medicines are drugs. Always check with your doctor or a pharmacist before using these.

Taking control of your heart failure is the key to living more actively with a better quality of life. Follow the treatment plan prescribed for you. Your success depends on an active partnership between you, your doctor and nurse.

Call Your Doctor

If you have any of these symptoms:

  • Sudden weight gain of 2 pounds overnight, or 3 to 5 pounds in a week
  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Waking up breathless at night
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • More tired than usual
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles or legs
  • Nausea or swelling in the abdomen

Download a Print Version Managing Congestive Heart Failure (pdf): English | Spanish