Community Shares: The Surprising Ways Heart Failure Can Affect Daily Life
Most people living with heart failure are aware of the biggest ways that the diagnosis affects the body. However, they may not know all the ways this diagnosis can impact daily life.
To find out more about the little-known and surprising ways 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 this prompt. Here is what they shared.
Be mentally sharp
This side effect definitely surprises most people. Heart failure can often affect memory. Several members of the community shared that they struggle to remember names and other new information. For some people, it can also affect attention and the ability to focus.1
“Have the ability to think clearly or remember to turn off the dishwater.”
“Think clearly and try to keep my senses about me.”
“Be mentally sharp.”
“Remember everyone’s name. I taught for 31 years and was pretty good with names. After my heart failure diagnosis, my memory is not as sharp as it used to be. Have patience with me.”
Go to restaurants
Many people living with heart failure are asked by their doctors to change their diets, sometimes radically. One of the biggest diet changes is a decrease in sodium. This makes it a challenge to go to restaurants since many use excessive sodium or MSG.
Likewise, some people have cut out meat or dairy. Finding vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options can take even more time. This can also limit someone’s ability to accept an invite out to dinner, an event, or a particular vacation spot.2
“My ability to go out to restaurants. I am sodium-restricted and exacting about low-salt foods. I also have not had bacon, sausage, and the like.”
Stay up late
Heart failure can affect sleep and the body’s natural rhythms in several ways. For some people, heart failure affects their ability to get a good night of sleep. Sometimes, there is a buildup of fluid in the lungs, which makes breathing and sleeping difficult.
Heart failure can also sometimes lead to sleep apnea, where someone’s breathing stops in the middle of the night. This leaves them feeling tired when they wake up in the morning. These are just a few reasons that someone with heart failure would have a hard time staying awake late at night, largely because the diagnosis makes it hard to get caught up on good sleep.3
“Stay awake in the evening. I seem to run out of gas at about 8:00.”
Be stable when I walk
Being unstable when walking may seem like an unusual symptom of heart failure. However, this diagnosis often leaves people feeling weak. This can make someone feel unstable on their legs.4
“Be stable when I walk.”
Most people would not think about it unless they had heart failure and are facing this problem. Heart failure affects one’s ability to breathe, so it makes sense it also makes it harder to sing. Some people with heart failure have had to give up the hobby entirely.4
“Sing. Shortness of breath is a problem.”
Thank you to everyone who shared about the eye-opening ways that heart failure has affected their lives. We appreciate your willingness to be open and engage with others in this community.
Do you use exercise to help manage your heart failure?