Living With Heart Failure

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2023

If you have recently been diagnosed with heart failure (HF), you are not alone. HF affects approximately 6.5 million people in the United States. It is an ongoing (chronic) condition and also a progressive one, meaning it gets worse over time.1-4

HF can cause symptoms such as swelling, shortness of breath, and fatigue. These symptoms can interfere with your activities of daily living. Severe symptoms can lead to hospitalization. While living with HF may not be easy, you can learn how to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.1-4

Importance of self-care

Living with HF means committing to lifelong management of your condition. This may seem hard and overwhelming. But it is key in improving or maintaining your health.

There is no cure for HF. You will need treatment for life. Taking responsibility for your health and managing your HF is also known as self-care. Research shows that you can prevent your HF from becoming worse through self-care. Taking steps to manage your HF can help you feel better and make your daily activities easier.1

Follow your treatment plan

Learn as much as you can about your HF and your treatment plan. Talk to your doctor if you have questions. You will likely need to make changes to your lifestyle as recommended by your doctor. These changes may not come easy to you.

People with HF who feel better are those who have built better habits. Symptoms are usually managed by building these new habits:1-5

  • Tracking your weight
  • Avoiding consuming excess sodium (salt)
  • Exercising regularly or as directed by your doctor
  • Taking your medicines as prescribed
  • Keeping up with your scheduled doctor visits

Know when to ask for help

As part of your treatment plan, your doctor will tell you how often to weigh yourself and when to report any symptoms. You should also know when symptoms might require you to go to an emergency room versus when they can be addressed at your doctor’s office.2

Understand the symptoms of HF and what you need to watch for. The following signs mean that fluid might be building up in your body and that your HF may be getting worse:2-4

  • Sudden weight gain
  • Swelling of the legs, feet, or ankles
  • Increasing shortness of breath

Seek support

Learning about an HF diagnosis or living with HF can bring up many feelings. You may feel scared, angry, or lonely. This is common in people with HF. But it can get better as you start to understand more about HF.2,3

If you are experiencing these feelings, talk to your doctor. They can help you find support and teach you ways to handle your feelings. You can also find support in other ways, such as:2,3

  • Speaking to a professional counselor
  • Participating in a support group
  • Connecting with friends and family

Talking to others can help you cope with these emotions. Remember to ask for help in dealing with your emotions if you need it. How you feel has an impact on how well you manage your symptoms of HF.2

Taking charge of your health and making the right lifestyle changes can:1-4

  • Improve your symptoms
  • Lower your chance of hospitalization
  • Lead to a better quality of life

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