Living with Heart Failure

Deer Valley Hospital
19829 N. 27th Ave.
Phoenix, Arizona 85027
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North Mountain Hospital
250 E. Dunlap Ave.
Phoenix, Arizona 85020
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» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure treatment specialist.

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John C. Lincoln Hospitals are specialized in providing heart failure treatment. Our hospitals were first in Arizona to earn full accreditation as heart failure centers. Learn about our heart failure centers.

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At John C. Lincoln Hospitals, our approach to heart failure treatment is very much a partnership. Just as patients rely on us for an individualized medical care, we rely on each patient to take an active role in following their prescribed treatment regimen.

Living with heart failure is a matter of managing it day to day, by seeing the doctor when required, taking medications as prescribed and making smart lifestyle choices.

Follow-Up Visits

Heart failure is one of the leading causes for hospital admission. It is also one of the most common reasons for re-admission to the hospital. Many re-admissions are due to chronic heart failure patients developing acute symptoms, resulting from a change in medication or lifestyle.

Together, seeing the doctor as scheduled and following medical advice carefully can reduce likelihood of being re-admitted to the hospital for heart failure raeasons.

Taking Medications

Most heart failure patients are prescribed two or more medications specifically to manage heart failure, along with supplemental chest pain and blood-thinning medications. Taking heart failure medications as prescribed is one of the most important things a patient can do to manage heart failure.

Regardless of the reason, a patient should never stop taking a medication, or change dosage or frequency, without first consulting his or her doctor. Some medications, such as beta blockers, may not immediately improve heart failure symptoms. Follow prescription labels carefully, and call the doctor with questions.

Limiting Sodium Intake

A weakened heart can impair the function of the kidneys, which regulate the body's sodium level. As sodium builds up in the blood stream, water collects in the blood vessels, blood pressure rises and the heart must work harder to pump blood.

For this reason, heart failure patients should limit their salt intake to 2,000mg per day — slightly less than a teaspoon. Doing so is a matter of reading food labels cautiously and eating processed foods sparingly. Many heart failure patients who switch to preparing meals at home — with fresh fruits and vegetables, and seasonings that serve as substitutes for salt — note an improvement in their symptoms.

Sleep Habits

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Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure specialist

Heart failure symptoms can interfere with getting a good night's sleep. For example, lying flat in bed can make it harder to breathe and cause coughing. Propping up one's head with a pillow may be a helpful remedy. However, the need to use two or more pillows may be a sign of worsening heart failure.

Likewise, taking prescribe diuretics — water pills prescribed to help the heart by flushing sodium and fluids from the body — can cause more frequent urges to urinate. Unfortunately, this side effect leads some patients to skip taking their diurectics, which can be dangerous. If the urge to urinate interrupts sleep, ask your nurse or doctor to recommend the best time of the day to take diuretics, to minimize nighttime bathroom trips.

Avoiding big meals before bedtime and limiting daytime naps also can lead to better sleep at night.

Physical Activity

Generally speaking, people with heart failure are advised to remain active, in accordance with a doctor-recommended exercise program. Moderate exercise — walking, biking and swimming — can be very beneficial, by keeping the rest of the body in good shape.

Watching Your Weight

Keeping a daily log of one's weight is an excellent way of monitoring heart failure. Weight gain of two to three pounds in one day, or five pounds in one week, can be an indication of fluid buildup in the body — a symptom of the heart not pumping properly. If untreated, fluid buildup can put even greater stress on the heart, cause shortness of breath and lead to edema (swelling) in the ankles, legs and abdomen.

» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure treatment specialist.