Community Shares: How Heart Failure Affects Abilities
Last updated: March 2023
There is no question that for most people, heart failure changes what everyday living looks like. However, how life changes can be different for everyone.
To find out more about how heart failure has changed the lives of those in the community, we reached out to followers of our Facebook page. We asked community members to fill in the blank: “I wish people knew that heart failure impacts my ability to _______.”
More than 100 people answered. Here is what they shared.
Challenges with breathing
One of the hardest parts of living with heart failure is how it affects breathing. When the heart is weakened, it has a harder time pumping blood to the lungs. This leaves many feeling short of breath. People with heart failure find that they are short of breath when walking, climbing stairs, or doing anything taxing. Some people are even short of breath when sitting or sleeping.1
“To breathe well at night.”
Staying physically strong
Heart failure not only affects the lungs but also the whole body. It is common for people with heart failure to feel weak and fatigued. This diagnosis also makes it more challenging to finish chores or activities that require strength, whether that be carrying groceries up the stairs or picking up a child or grandchild.1
“Be strong. Despite all my great dietary changes, I feel weaker every day. Especially my legs. I feel like a plucked flower.”
Heart failure has an effect on breathing and on the heart’s ability to pump blood to the muscles. This makes most movements more of a struggle. Some community members have had to give up long-distance running and other physical activities they used to enjoy. However, some people go on to find less strenuous ways to enjoy the physical activity they did before they were diagnosed.1
“Walk far, dance, and even lay down sometimes.”
“Do the things other people do, such as go shopping, swimming, and hiking.”
Enjoying every moment of life
Living with heart failure often means living with worry or fear. When every day means facing fears that you might have a heart attack or other symptoms, it is hard to live spontaneously and enjoy the moments.
“Live life to the fullest without the fear of dying.”
“Enjoy life and not live with the ‘what is next feeling’ all the time.”
This diagnosis can change what feels like every bit of daily life. It is not uncommon for someone’s life to look completely different after diagnosis. That is okay. Heart failure may change some of what you do and how you do it, but that does not mean this diagnosis has the ability to take away all pleasure and happiness in life. It often takes time, but many people living with heart failure learn to make a new way of living that brings joy and satisfaction.
“Just be the old me.”
“Be my old self.”
“To do the things I used to do with ease.”
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this story. We are grateful that so many in the community openly share so others can learn from their experiences.
Besides heart failure, do you have any other chronic medical conditions?
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