Managing Other Conditions When You Have Heart Failure: Care Instructions

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All the systems in your body rely on each other to work properly. Heart failure has effects all through your body that can lead to other problems, such as kidney disease. The reverse is also true. A condition like diabetes or lung disease can damage or stress your heart and cause heart failure. Managing any other problems can help reduce your heart's workload and make your heart failure better.

Conditions that commonly cause or occur along with heart failure include high blood pressure, diabetes, COPD, high cholesterol, kidney problems, and anemia.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Steps to help with heart failure and other problems

  • Eat heart-healthy foods. These foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish, and whole grains.
  • Limit sodium. This helps keep fluid from building up. It may help you feel better. Limiting sodium can also help if you have high blood pressure or kidney disease.
  • Get regular exercise. Regular exercise, such as walking, helps your heart. It can also help lower your blood pressure, lower stress, and help you stay at a healthy weight.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to. Losing weight can help you manage diabetes and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking stresses your lungs, interferes with healing, and can make heart failure worse.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. Excess alcohol can cause health problems such as increased blood pressure. Ask your doctor how much, if any, is safe.
  • If you think you might have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.
  • Limit your fluid intake if your doctor tells you to. Reducing fluids can help balance your body's sodium level.

If your doctor has not set you up with a cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program, ask if it is right for you. Cardiac rehab includes exercise, help with diet and lifestyle changes, and emotional support.

To stay as healthy as possible

  • Work closely with your doctor. Have all your tests, and go to all your appointments.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. You will take medicines to treat the other conditions you have along with heart failure. It can be hard to balance the treatment for all your conditions. You may have follow-up tests to make sure that all your medicines are working well together. Talk to your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • Keep all your doctors informed about your health problems and all the medicines you take for them. Medicines that can treat one condition may make another condition worse.
  • Talk to your doctor before you take any vitamins, over-the-counter drugs, or herbal products. Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) unless you talk to your doctor first. They could make your heart failure and other problems worse.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of sudden heart failure, such as:
    • Severe trouble breathing.
    • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
    • A new irregular or rapid heartbeat.
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have sudden weight gain, such as more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • You are suddenly so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you develop new symptoms.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.