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Living life to the fullest may seem difficult after a heart failure diagnosis, but it is certainly not impossible to achieve. A once active and social lifestyle can be stifled by tiredness, difficulty breathing and weight gain. But by taking control of the illness and living the life you want, in body, mind and spirit, it can be possible.
Treating heart failure is about more than just surviving. And that’s why taking control of the illness is important towards regaining control of your lifestyle. Whether it’s watching your grandchild walk down the aisle or wanting to continue weekly meetups with friends—reaching goals and improving overall quality of life is an essential part of health care.
Understanding your illness can help ensure it is being treated in the best way possible. Heart failure is caused by damage to the heart, which could be from previous heart attacks or something more simple, such as partially blocked arteries caused by fat and cholesterol deposits. Heart failure is not an illness, but rather a group of symptoms caused by an illness.
The heart is a muscle that works by contracting and squeezing blood throughout the body. In some cases, the heart is enlarged, which makes it work much harder than it should. In other cases, the heart is normal-sized, but the walls of the heart are stiff, which makes it harder to relax and let blood fill the heart chambers efficiently. Heart stiffness can be caused by a variety of conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks.
Heart failure can also be caused by problems with your heart valves. Heart valves are responsible for regulating the flow of blood from the heart. If the valves are leaky or too narrow, then the flow can place stress on the heart.
The cause of your heart failure will also determine whether any effective treatments exist. While damage caused by heart attacks typically cannot be treated short of a transplant, heart failure that’s caused by valve issues can sometimes be repaired.
Organize Your Treatment
Patients may see best-case results when they take control of their treatment by monitoring their own health status and trying to maximize wellness. The majority of care can be handled by the patient, at home, through proper diet and closely monitoring medication.
Ensuring you are taking the right medication dosages at the proper time(s) is a large part of that 99 percent. Experts have found that those patients who use a pillbox to organize their medication have better overall health.
Pillboxes are a great way to organize medications and keep track of routine. Patients can review the use with their medical professional and identify any opportunities to improve therapies.
Choose a Design That’s Best for You
It is especially important for people with heart failure to stay mobile, so try arranging your furniture so that you have reasons to get up and move, rather than remaining seated for hours at a time.
Your furniture can also be a handy mobility aid. If you arrange it so that you’ll always have something to grab onto as you move from room to room, you can reduce your risk of a fall.
Walking, dancing, pool workouts and lifting light weights—which can even be common household items like a one-liter water bottle—are all great ways to get light exercise and stay active.
Diet With Purpose
Food is an important staple in achieving quality of life for most, but it’s still important to maintain balance when living with heart failure. Eating too much salt can cause your body to retain fluid, making heart failure symptoms worse. For this reason, a low-sodium diet is best to strive towards.
Monitor Weight and Blood Pressure
There are two major measurements that people with heart failure can monitor at home: weight and blood pressure. Staying on top of these numbers can help you fine-tune your care and prevent painful complications.
Rapid weight gain, usually defined as more than five pounds over two days, can provide a warning sign before physical symptoms like swollen ankles appear. Taking a diuretic, or “water pill,” can help you shed water weight and avoid the shortness of breath that comes from fluid buildup in the lungs.
Furthermore, monitoring your weight will help regulate your water balance through diet, helping you limit your intake of diuretics to only when absolutely necessary. It is recommended for patients to set up a weighing routine at a certain time of day, such as right after waking up, so measurements can be compared with each other since your weight will fluctuate throughout the day.
Taking your blood pressure is a little more involved, but home blood pressure kits can make it easy. Knowing these measurements allows you to keep tabs on your health, but it does more, too.
Creating Quality of Life
A well-lived life is one worth celebrating, and while planning for the end is not easy for anyone, patients who have the tough conversations with their family early on are ultimately encouraged to make the most of their time and determine their priorities. The key is knowing what you want out of life.
Work directly with your doctor to design a care plan that can slow the progression of the disease. If living the life you want is more important than living as long as possible — if quality is more important than quantity — these are the type of questions that make a difference when planning treatment. For some, living a higher quality but shorter life is a tradeoff worth making.
AdventHealth medical professionals have learned that helping patients live the life they love is a crucial part of treating heart failure. We believe expert heart care should be paired with a concern for helping patients achieve feeling whole through emotional and spiritual health.