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Self-Care Handbook

Learning to Live with Heart Failure

Write down important phone numbers and keep them handy.

Health-care provider

Name ___________________________________________________________________ Phone Number ___________________________________________________________


Name ___________________________________________________________________ Phone Number ___________________________________________________________

Home health-care agency

Name ___________________________________________________________________ Phone Number ___________________________________________________________

Oxygen equipment supplier

Name ___________________________________________________________________ Phone Number ___________________________________________________________

An emergency contact

Name ___________________________________________________________________ Phone Number ___________________________________________________________

If you have heart failure, this handbook is for you.

This handbook is designed to help you and your family understand and manage heart failure. There are areas for you to track your medicines, diet, weight, and exercise.

Family Members can be a wonderful source of support. Ask them to read this handbook with you. They will be able to help you:

keep track of medicines cook nutritious meals stay active without overdoing it prevent infections get the support you need

Heart failure cannot be cured, but by understanding it and following simple guidelines, you can lead a full and active life.


What is heart failure ............... 2 Medicine .................................. 3 Track your medicines........4 & 5 Weight, blood pressure, and stress........................................ 6 Track your weight ................... 7 High sodium foods ................. 8 Low sodium foods .................. 9 Sodium intake ........................10 Other lifestyle changes.......... 11 Exercise ..................................12 Preventing swelling and infection ..................................13 Support groups ......................14

What is heart failure?

Heart failure means that your body is not pumping enough blood to meet your body's needs. Heart failure does not mean that you are

about to die or that your heart has stopped. It simply means that your heart is not working as well as it should.

Heart failure can happen in different parts of the heart. Sometimes the heart weakens and

is less able to pump blood out. This is called "systolic" failure. Or sometimes the heart cannot relax properly to fill with blood. This is called "diastolic" failure. Some people have both problems.

Heart failure also affects the kidneys' ability to get rid of sodium and water. The excess water

can cause your feet, ankles and legs to swell.

The terms "congestive heart failure" means that your heart's decreased ability to pump blood is accompanied by excess fluid in the lungs.

The healthy heart is strong enough to pump

blood out of the heart so it doesn't back up into the lungs and veins.

The damaged heart causes slower blood flow to

the body. It can also cause blood to back up into the lungs and veins.

A traffic jam happens when you heart is not

pumping properly. Blood from the lungs or from the rest of the body backs up, just as traffic can back up at rush hour.

To stop the traffic jam, the heart may enlarge its chambers to let in more blood. It may enlarge its muscle to beat with more force. These help keep the heart working almost normally in the early stages of heart failure. But these measures cannot keep your heart working properly over a long period of time - and can actually make matters worse.

Heart failure usually doesn't occur suddenly. It

gradually worsens over time. Heart failure can be caused by:

? coronary artery disease ? past heart attack ? high blood pressure ? lung disease ? heart valve disease or infection ? heart muscle disease ? heart defects present at birth ? heart damage from alcohol or drug abuse ? heart damage due to diabetes ? abnormal heart rhythms ? thyroid disorders

Common symptoms of heart failure ? shortness of breath ? waking up due to shortness of breath ? frequent cough or wheezing ? bloating ? swollen feet, legs and ankles ? the need to urinate more often during the night ? a sudden weight gain ? nausea or loss of appetite ? fatigue or weakness ? confusion or decreased alertness ? rapid or irregular heartbeat ? swollen neck veins

If your symptoms change or worsen, contact your health care provider. 2

Medicine is a key factor in

treating heart failure.

Medicine can help make it easier for your heart to pump, strengthen your heartbeat and remove excess fluid from your body. It can also help improve your overall quality of life when used as directed. Your health-care provider may prescribe one or more types of medicine, such as:

ACE inhibitors & angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)

Purpose: To open up your arteries and lower blood pressure.

Side effects: May include a cough, dizziness, loss of taste, swelling, skin rash and high potassium levels.

Beta blockers

Purpose: To block the effects of chemicals that can make your heart work too hard.

Side effects: May include shortness of breath, slow heartbeat, fatigue and low blood pressure.

Digitalis (digoxin)

Purpose: To make your heartbeat stronger and more regular.

Side effects: May include nausea and loss of appetite, blurred vision, mental confusion, irregular heartbeat and headache.

Diuretics (water pills)

Purpose: To help your body get rid of excess fluid, making it easier for your heart to pump.

Side effects: May include leg cramps, dizziness, skin rash and low potassium levels.


Purpose: To open up your arteries and make it easier for your heart to pump.

Side effects: May include headache, low blood pressure, dizziness, nasal congestion, flushing and irregular heartbeat.

Tips for managing your medicines

Taken as prescribed, medicine can help you feel better. Taken incorrectly, medicine can be useless or, even worse, harmful. Follow these guidelines for taking your medicine.

Ask questions about your medicines, such as "What are they

for?" or "When should I take them?"

Check the label before you take a medicine. Be sure you

are taking the right one and have the correct dose. Always follow the directions.

Don't take medicine in the dark - it's easy to make a mistake

and take the wrong one.

Tell your health-care provider if you have other prescriptions or take any over-the-counter medicines (even aspirin or

other pain relievers), nutritional supplements or herbal remedies. They could react with medicines he or she prescribes.

Ask your health-care provider what you should do if you miss

a dose. Never take a larger dose the next time without his or her permission.

Report new side effects to your health-care provider. He or

she may adjust your dose, prescribe a different medicine or make other changes.

Always carry a list of your medicines with you. This can help

health-care professionals in an emergency.

Keep track of your medicines - keeping a written record of

your medicines, including vitamins and over-the-counter drugs, will also help you remember to take them on schedule. The charts on the next two pages will give you a good start.

Even if you are feeling better, take your medicine as prescribed! Don't stop taking a medicine without talking to your health-care provider first. Changing the size of doses or skipping does can be dangerous.

Aldosterone blockers

This handbook is not able to list all the risks, benefits, side effects, and special

Purpose: To block the effects of a hormone that can cause fluid buildup and high blood pressure.

precautions for each medication discussed. Patients (or guardians) should talk with their health-care provider about risks, benefits, side effects and special precautions for each medication prior to use. Use medications only as prescribed or directed by

Side effects: May include headache, dizziness,

your health-care provider.

enlarged breasts, irregular vaginal bleeding and

high potassium levels.


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