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Your Heart Failure Management Plan

Animation Copyright © Milner-Fenwick


Managing your heart failure means getting your heart failure symptoms under control. To do this, follow your heart failure management plan.

Everyone's management plan is a little different, and is based on your symptoms. Most heart failure management plans include taking your medications, reducing your sodium intake, limiting your fluid intake, staying active, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and monitoring your symptoms.

Taking your medications is one of the most important aspects of your management plan. Your healthcare provider will prescribe medication to help reduce the workload on your heart. Most likely, you will be prescribed several medications.

No matter what types of medications you take for your heart failure, they will only work if you take them as prescribed.

One of the best ways to prevent fluid from building up in your body is to reduce the amount of sodium, or salt, you eat. Sodium, or salt, can have a direct impact on how you feel because reduced blood flow from heart failure causes your kidneys to hold onto sodium; and the more sodium they hold onto, the more fluid builds up, which leads to swelling.

Review the foods you like to eat or eat often, with your healthcare provider to make sure you are making healthy choices.

"A quarter of a cup is 390 milligrams of sodium."


In some cases of heart failure, your healthcare provider may tell you to limit your overall fluid intake. If your body is holding too much fluid, drinking too much will further increase your symptoms of heart failure. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about a fluid intake goal, if it's the right treatment for you.

"They educated me not to go past 64 fluid ounces a day. So I was like, 'How am I going to measure that?'"

"So I took a two-liter bottle, an empty two-liter bottle - soda bottle, you know, water bottle, two-liter bottle - and cut the top off. And whatever I drank, I would fill it back up with water after drinking it.

"I would fill the same cup up with water, and dump it in the two-liter bottle. So when it started getting close to the top, I knew that it was time to slow down or back off, because that was my intake for the day."

Staying active is one of the best things you can do for your health, and this is still true when you have heart failure. Exercise helps your body use oxygen more efficiently, which allows you to do more with less effort and less fatigue. Talk to your healthcare provider about developing a physical activity plan that is right for you.

If you smoke, quit. If you continue to use tobacco, you are at a greater risk for heart attack and stroke. Smoking can also weaken your heart further, making your heart failure worse. And smoking damages your lungs, which can make your symptoms of heart failure, like shortness of breath and fatigue, worse.

Avoid second hand smoke. It's physically dangerous to your heart and lungs, and can trigger you to smoke again.

And don't drink alcohol. Alcohol can weaken your heart, which can lead to an increase in your symptoms. It can also interact with your prescriptions, and it may also promote thirst. Your healthcare provider may also suggest that you cut back on, or get rid of, the caffeine in your diet as well.

Follow your management plan every day to reduce your symptoms and control your heart failure. Monitor your symptoms to make sure your management plan is working.

Look for signs of swelling in your legs, ankles and feet, and weigh yourself on a daily basis. An increase in weight can be a sign that your body is holding onto fluid. Bring your weight record to each healthcare appointment.

Over time, your condition can change and so should your management plan. Your healthcare provider may change your medications, or recommend additional treatment options. Whatever changes are made, the goal of your management plan is still the same to reduce your symptoms and help you feel better.

Animation Copyright © Milner-Fenwick