Living With Heart Failure

By: Bronson Healthcare

(calm piano music) (narrator) Welcome to Bronson. We want to make sure that you, as a heart failure patient, understand the condition and how to manage it. Specifically, we will discuss heart failure signs, symptoms, and zones, medicines used to treat heart failure, and what to eat, drink, and do to keep your heart healthy every day. Heart failure means your heart is not pumping blood as well as it should and your body likely has extra fluid. Other symptoms include... Tired-- you may feel more tired than usual or get tired more quickly than you normally would. Chest pain-- you may have some chest pain, pressure, or tightness in your chest.

Shortness of breath-- you may find yourself getting more short of breath after sleeping, lying down, or with activity. Swelling-- you may get some swelling in your feet, ankles, legs, or stomach. Weight gain-- when your heart is not pumping blood properly, fluid can build up throughout your body and cause weight gain. I was diagnosed with heart failure back in 2004. My mom and my brother dragged me to the hospital because I had a problem sleeping and I basically had to sleep in a chair. I kept telling them I was fine, you know, I just sleep sitting up. They kept me in the hospital for about four days and they finally came in and told me that I had congestive heart failure.

(narrator) The word "failure" can be scary to hear. However, there are many things you can do to live a longer, healthier life. Bronson uses heart failure zones to help us know how you are doing. There are three zones-- green, yellow, and red. The green zone means your symptoms are under control and you're managing your heart failure condition well.

You have no shortness of breath, no weight gain, no increased swelling of feet, ankles, legs, or stomach, and no chest pain. Here are some tips to stay in the green zone. Weigh yourself every morning before breakfast. Write down how much you weigh and compare your weight to the day before and the week before. Watch how much fluid you take in.

Living With Heart Failure

And look for extra swelling in your legs. This is the best zone to be in. The yellow zone means you have one or more of the following-- weight gain of three or more pounds in one day, or five or more pounds over the last five days, more shortness of breath than usual, more swelling than usual in your feet, ankles, legs, or stomach, feel more tired than usual, you have a dry hacking cough, difficulty breathing when lying down, you feel uneasy or know that something is not right.

You may also feel dizzy or lightheaded. If you have any of the signs in the yellow zone, call your doctor's office. Tell them you are in the yellow heart failure zone and it is important that you talk with someone right away. The red zone is very serious. It means you are struggling to breathe, have chest pain, tightness, or heaviness, and/or feel confused and unable to think clearly. Call 911 or go to the emergency department right away.

Keep your Bronson heart failure zone card with you. It will help you to remember the signs and guide you on what actions to take when you are not feeling well. I have it on my refrigerator and I check it every day... (chuckling) to see what zone I'm in, and see if I need to call my doctor. (narrator) There are many medicines used to help with heart failure. Make sure you keep a list of all the medicines you are taking.

Write down how much of each medicine you take and how often. Take the medicines as the doctor ordered. Remember, if you do not take them, they will not work. Here are some of the common heart failure medicines.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist which ones you are taking. Diuretics or water pills. These pills help your body get rid of extra water. You may get up to go to the bathroom more often in the middle of the night. If this occurs, talk with your doctor about taking the medicine earlier in the day. ACE inhibitors and ARBs. These help your heart pump stronger and move blood through your body better. Some patients may have a dry cough with these medicines, but it should go away with time.

If it does not, talk with your doctor about other options. Watch out for swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or face. If this type of swelling occurs, call 911. Beta blockers. These slow your heart rate so the heart muscle can squeeze stronger.

You may get more tired, lightheaded, or dizzy when you first start taking this medicine. However, these symptoms should go away with time. These are the most common medicines for heart failure, but your doctor may have prescribed something different for you. Keep taking your medicine until your doctor or pharmacist says otherwise. Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about your medicines and their side effects.

Do not stop taking your medicine if you do not like the side effects. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before making any changes. Get your refills on time so you do not run out. If you cannot afford your prescriptions, talk with your pharmacist. There may be options.

Follow this advice to stay in the green heart failure zone. I put together a list of all my medications. And I take them with the dosages. I take this with me whenever I go to the doctor, if I go to the hospital or whatever, because they always want a list of medications. I started doing this actually because I have so many medications and I couldn't remember them all. So, I just say, "Here's a list." (narrator) Watching what you eat and drink is important to managing your heart failure condition.

The more sodium and salt you take in, the more your body holds on to extra fluid. This makes your heart work harder. Sodium is found in salt and other foods such as canned soup, lunch meat, frozen dinners, dressings, and sauces to name a few. Find out how much sodium is in a product by reading the label, even if it says "heart healthy" or "reduced sodium." It is still important to look at the label on the back. Look at the sodium content as well as the serving size. For example, in this can of soup, there are 710 milligrams of sodium for one serving, but there are two and a half servings per can.

If you eat the whole can, you will have eaten 1,775 milligrams of sodium. For most people, the goal is to have less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium total each day. This one can of soup puts you pretty close to your daily maximum. Look for options with less sodium. If you go out to eat, ask about the sodium content. The other part of your diet to watch is fluid. Aim to take in 6 to 8 cups-- or 48 to 64 ounces-- a day.

No more and no less. This is about the size of a two-liter container. Be aware-- fluid does not just mean liquids like water, pop, or coffee. Fluid may be hidden in items such as ice cream, Jell-O, popsicles, and ice cubes. If it melts, it's a fluid. Too much fluid isn't good, but too little fluid can cause dehydration. Choose to eat low-sodium foods and watch the amount of fluids you have each day. You can stay in the green heart failure zone and out of the hospital.

When I go shopping for groceries, I look for-- I always read the labels, and I look for what has the lowest amount of sodium. And I do my own cooking. I cook from scratch. And that's what I use, and frozen. No canned vegetables.

I don't buy the prepared foods. I prepare my own. (narrator) Here are some tips on how to go about your day and keep up your energy. Balance activity and rest. Don't try to do everything at once. Space things out. Set priorities. Decide which tasks are most important and take your time.

Pace yourself. Stop and rest before you get tired. Take many short rest breaks instead of one long rest break. Heart failure is a lifelong manageable condition.

You can help keep your heart healthy. Watch for symptoms and weigh yourself every day. Call your doctor if you are in the yellow zone. Dial 911 if you are in the red zone.

Take your medicine as prescribed. Follow the low sodium, fluid-restricted diet. And balance your day with activity and rest. Most importantly, ask questions. At Bronson, we want to partner with you to manage your condition and to live a healthy life. I would tell you, first, don't be afraid and don't get depressed and sit around and worry about your condition. Just do the things that you can do and don't worry about the things you can't do.

I've been living with heart failure for nine years now. You know, and I'm going to try and live as good as I can. You know, try to have fun. Keep right on living. That's what I try to do every day.


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