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Heart failure happens when your heart doesn’t pump blood through your body as it should. The most common symptoms of heart disease are fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling.

Heart failure is a chronic condition and worsens over time without treatment. It’s important to talk with your doctor about managing heart failure.

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Lifestyle Modifications to Help Your Heart

Whether you take medication or have undergone surgery for heart failure, making sure you follow a healthy lifestyle will allow your heart to work properly and avoid complications in the future.

Quit smoking

The most important thing you can do to manage your condition is to quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of heart attack, among other health problems.

Keep track of your weight

Being very overweight makes your heart work harder. When it’s already struggling from heart failure, losing weight can help lessen the strain.

In addition, you’ll want to weigh yourself daily to make sure your heart failure is staying in check. Quick weight gain, such as 4 to 5 pounds in a week, can be a sign that your condition is worsening.

Take your medications

You may be on medications to prevent blood clots, to lower blood pressure, or manage other chronic conditions. Be sure to take all medications as prescribed.

Follow a Nutritious Diet and Exercise Plan

Limiting sodium and watching your fluid intake are key to managing heart failure. Salt raises your blood pressure and causes you hold on to fluid.

A low-sodium diet means less than 2,000 mg per day. It’s best to meet with a dietitian to talk about what foods you can enjoy and what foods you need to modify to make them fit your new diet.

Cured meats, packaged snack foods, prepared soups, and canned foods tend to have high sodium contents, as do many foods served in restaurants. Whenever possible, opt for fresh or frozen vegetables without added seasoning packets. Reach for spices and herbs over salt when flavoring your foods at home to keep your sodium intake down.

Your doctor can tell you how much is safe for you to drink each day. In most cases, people with heart failure should drink no more than 8 glasses filled with 8 ounces of liquid (2 quarts) per day.

In addition to diet, exercise is important to strengthening your heart. Aim for getting 30 minutes of exercise 5 to 7 days a week. That may sound daunting, but the 30 minutes can be broken up into 10-minute segments throughout the day. One brisk 10-minute walk after each meal will get you there.

Managing heart failure requires a major lifestyle adjustment for most people. It’s not always easy to make the changes needed, but once you do, you’ll feel better and more active. Plus, your heart will thank you.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.