ALT=a person explain heart health basics in a presentation

Back to Basics, Heart Failure and Heart Health

A new heart failure diagnosis can feel so overwhelming. Clair talks about a few things she wishes she had known when she was first diagnosed:

"Heart failure" is a phrase that can be so profound and overwhelming that it conveys a lot without saying much at all.

When people start looking for information and support regarding heart failure, it can all be a little overwhelming. There are many acronyms and an overwhelming amount of information about what to look out for and what not to look out for.

Things I wish I knew when I was newly diagnosed

I would like to preface this by stating that I am not a medical professional. This is my understanding of and how I have genuinely come to understand heart failure, the symptoms, what to look out for, etc. As a beginner, finding the basics of what you need to know can be overwhelming. These are the things that helped me and made it clear to me.

If you suspect that you are having an issue with your heart, it is always advisable to seek immediate medical attention.

Understanding what heart failure is

Heart failure is a lifelong condition. It occurs when the heart cannot pump or fill as it needs to. It does not mean that the heart does not work. It does, however, mean that the heart does not work as efficiently or effectively as it should. Blood will then move through the body and heart at a slower rate, which places a lot of pressure and strain on the heart. This, in turn, means that not enough oxygen is being delivered to the body.

That is a very short and simple version. Many things can lead to heart failure, from illness to medication, genetics, allergic reactions, alcohol use, various heart conditions, drug abuse, and so on.

There are also many ways to cope with and manage heart failure, all of which will require medical attention.

Symptoms I've learned to look out for

While these are not all of them, the following symptoms could be indicative and should require that you have yourself checked out by your doctor as soon as possible: Heart failure must be diagnosed by a medical professional and cannot be self-diagnosed.

  • Shortness of breath, particularly when lying down
  • Neck veins that stand out more than they normally do
  • Swelling of legs, ankles, feet, and abdomen
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Spots of blood/light pink mucus
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Severe weakness

Positive lifestyle changes I've made to protect my heart health

It is always a good idea to look after your heart and incorporate positive lifestyle changes that could help improve and look after your heart health. Here are some things that I've started incorporating into my daily life which have helped me. Of course, please be sure to run this by your healthcare team and cardiologist before trying anything new.

  • Follow a healthy balanced diet, meeting all your nutritional needs
  • Engage in regular exercise within your ability
  • Limit the use of alcohol
  • Avoid tobacco and secondhand smoke as much as possible
  • Maintain regular blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol checkups
  • Manage your stress levels as much as possible. Laugh more.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get adequate sleep and maintain a healthy sleep schedule
  • Stay hydrated and drink enough water

If you suspect that you are having an issue with your heart, it is always advisable to seek immediate medical attention.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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