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Managing heart failure1

In addition to medicines, your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes. Read below for tips that can help you manage your heart failure.


Reducing your fluids

When you have heart failure, your body often holds on to more fluid than it can handle. This is called “fluid retention.” Your doctor may recommend that you drink less to help with this.
Typically, you should be consuming no more than 2 liters (less than 8 cups) of liquid per day. This includes all beverages, ice cubes, and foods with moisture, like fruit and ice cream.
Because you may also be taking a diuretic (water pill), you may be very thirsty. Try to weigh yourself every day to help track your fluid retention.

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The danger of salt

Eating less salt is very important when you have heart failure. Salt (sodium) causes your body to retain water. When your body fills up with more fluids, it’s harder for your heart to pump properly. As a result, fluid backs up in the body.

That’s why it’s important not to add salt to your food. Try replacing salt with herbs and spices. This helps keep flavor in a healthier way.

You should also try to avoid foods that are made with a lot of salt. Read the package labels to see how much salt is in your food. If you eat 3 meals per day, try to keep each meal between 500 mg and 1,000 mg of salt. A few examples of foods high in salt are:

  • Bread               
  • Soup
  • Cheese
  • Cured meats
  • Ready meals
  • Canned goods, like beans
  • Salted nuts
  • Salad dressings
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A healthy diet is key

A healthy diet starts with the decisions you make about food. Pick out healthy options whenever you are at the grocery store. You can still go out for dinner and eat healthy, it just takes some monitoring.

Ask your doctor for advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. You may find that eating smaller meals more frequently helps you. Digesting small amounts of food may put less strain on the body and the heart.

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Say no to smoking and limit alcohol consumption

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, it is important that you don’t smoke.

People with heart failure should also limit alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and cause problems. Some people with heart failure should avoid alcoholic beverages altogether.

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Get moving and exercise

Like all muscles, your heart muscle can benefit from exercise. Even just taking a short walk can help. If you’re unable to walk, there are other ways to stay active. Before starting an exercise routine, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for your health.

Start slow. Even a small amount of exercise may help you feel better. Exercise helps strengthen your heart so it can keep up with the blood flow. Exercise also helps control your weight and blood pressure.

When you stay active, your brain signals your body to release chemicals that make you feel better. Exercise can help you to stay positive and reach new goals!

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Conserving your energy

It’s important to listen to your body. People with heart failure say they have a limited amount of energy, like a battery. It’s good to think about the amount of energy you have and try and plan out how you will use it throughout the day. Prioritize the activities that are most important to you.

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The value of a support system

Your heart failure team can help you share the burden of making decisions and plans. It will help everyone involved feel in control of their lives.

Your team could include your doctors, your main carer, friends, and family. It can also be the people you see regularly in your daily life.

You may meet people who have heart failure themselves. Sharing your stories can be an important part of managing your life with heart failure. Be open and honest about how you feel. It is important to help other members on your team understand how you feel and what you are going through. This will help them to support you better.


1: White MF, et al. Circulation. 2014;129:e293-e294


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