Why does heart failure make you feel tired?

We know that for people with heart failure, the heart struggles to pump blood efficiently around the body. This means that the flow of oxygen rich blood around the body is reduced. Oxygen is the fuel our bodies need to function and be active. So when levels are reduced and muscles don’t get the energy they need, even everyday activities such as climbing the stairs, walking to the shops or taking a shower can be exhausting.[1]

The good news is that there are steps people with heart failure can take to manage and maybe even raise their energy levels.

  • Use energy wisely
    • Think of the amount of energy you have each day like the amount of energy in a battery.[2] Used wisely, the energy in a battery can last for a long time. By prioritizing the activities that are most important to you each day you can make the most of living a more energized life.
  • Take heart friendly exercise
    • Exercise increases fitness levels, and when we are fit we make fewer demands on the energy in our body to get on and do the things we need to do.[3] It’s a bit like keeping a piece of machinery well oiled; it takes less effort to get it to work well than if it is rusty. Over time, taking regular exercise keeps the body ‘well oiled’ and can help make daily activities a bit easier because the body needs less energy to do them. Talk to your healthcare professional about an activity programme that could help you maximize your energy. 
  • Think about what you eat
    • Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, including fibre, fruits and vegetables, being careful about your fluid intake and cutting back things that put a strain on your body like salt, alcohol and smoking can help keep you healthy and your energy levels up.[4] Speak to a healthcare professional to make sure your diet is giving you the support you need.
  • Track your energy
    • Keeping a short, daily or weekly energy diary is a good way to monitor how your energy levels are changing overtime.[1] It will help you see if improvements in your fitness levels or changes to your diet are having an effect. It could also help you to see quickly if your energy levels are dropping, in which case you and your doctor can discuss what to do.

You probably have some tried and tested ‘top tips’ of your own for managing energy levels. Why not share them on social media?



1: Heartfailurematters.org. Increasing fatigue. http://www.heartfailurematters.org/en_GB/Warning-signs/Increasing-fatigue. Accessed December 7th 2016.

2: British Heart Foundation. Living with heart failure. http://www.nhs.uk/ipgmedia/national/british%20heart%20foundation/assets/livingwithheartfailure.pdf. Accessed June 2016.

3: NHS Choices. Benefits of exercise. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/Whybeactive.aspx. Accessed December 7th 2016.

4: British Nutrition Foundation. Articles. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=63&Itemid=214025. Accessed December 7th 2016.