What is heart failure?
Heart failure is a health problem in which people may experience shortness of breath with activity, or even without activity or while lying down and/or swelling of the ankles, legs, or other extremities. If you’re diagnosed with heart failure, it does not mean your heart stopped working, or truly “failed”, it just means your heart is not pumping as well as it should. When this happens, fluid from your body is not properly distributed through your body and may back up in your lungs or other areas of the body.
The standard treatment for heart failure includes medications that have been studied and proven to help you live longer and other medications to help control the fluid buildup symptoms. It is important to follow up with a health care professional to manage your heart failure appropriately.
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Managing fluid buildup in heart failure
If you have heart failure and wonder what things you can do on your own to help manage fluid buildup, there are several lifestyle changes and treatment strategies that can help. These strategies would be considered in addition to the medications your doctor has prescribed. You should always follow your health care provider’s instructions if they provide different recommendations than those listed here.
Here are a few tips to help manage fluid buildup in heart failure:
1) Watch how much fluid you take in. Your health care provider may even have a limit on how much fluid they’d like you to consume in a day. This includes fluids in your foods, like soup, and in all the drinks you consume per day. It may be helpful in heart failure to limit the amount of fluid you take in each day.
2) Limit salt (or sodium) intake. Salt can lead to water retention in your body. Again, follow your health care providers recommendations on how much sodium you can take in each day. Generally, it’s a good idea to limit salt to 2000mg of sodium or less per day. Some foods, especially fast foods, canned foods, and processed foods have a lot more sodium than you’d think. Therefore, reading food labels will be vital.
3) Take your medications as prescribed. There are certain medications your doctor may prescribe to help get rid of the extra fluid in your body.
4) Keep track of your weight. It is recommended to weigh yourself every day if you have heart failure. Sudden weight gain can be a sign that you’re holding onto extra fluid in your body. Try to weigh yourself at the same time each day and keep a record. Contact your health care provider or follow instructions they’ve provided for if you note sudden weight gain of 2-3 pounds overnight or 5 pounds in a week.
5) Elevate your legs. If you’re experiencing swelling in your legs or ankles, elevating them can help. Elevate your feet above the level of your heart and do this a few times per day, or as recommended by your doctor.
6) Avoid alcohol and quit smoking. These can worsen your condition and it will always help you to reduce your intake or quit completely.
7) Stay active. Physical activity can help your circulation and reduce swelling.
The amount of physical activity you can maintain will depend on your overall health and severity of your heart failure. Your health care provider can help you determine the right amount of exercise for your specific case.
Heart failure is a complex disease with many factors that can contribute to the condition. These recommendations are generalizations, but it is important to always follow the recommendations of your health care provider first and foremost. Being actively involved in your health and treatment and working closely with your provider is the best way to effectively manage your disease.
Disclaimer: This blog is written for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen online.