Self-care: Taking care of yourself
Continuous self-care enables most persons with heart failure to live a fulfilling life. Self-care is what people do for themselves to maintain health despite having heart failure. Self-care includes following the treatment advice, implementing lifestyle changes as well as (self-)monitoring the symptoms of heart failure. If needed, it also includes proactively dealing with a changed health status.
Knowing how to cope with heart failure will help you to continue doing the things in life you need and wish to do, enjoying work, travelling, leisure, and social activities. Do not hesitate to seek support from others. Family members, friends, health care professionals and heart failure patient organisations can support you emotionally and practically.
Monitoring and handling symptoms of heart failure
Get a grip on your symptoms! It is essential in congestive heart failure to monitor the symptoms and it is easy to learn! You may wish to aim for daily documentation of your symptoms in a diary.
Symptoms to monitor include shortness of breath, swollen ankles (ankle edema), body weight, blood pressure, and heart rate. These symptoms are aggravated by extra fluids in your body and may be warning signs. Psychoemotional distress or a depressed mood can also be a consequence of heart failure. You may need to consult a health care professional if you experience severe symptoms of mental distress.
Medications, immunisations, and lifestyle changes
Self-care includes taking the prescribed medications. Most heart failure medication needs to be continued long-term. Do not stop taking medication without consulting your doctor or heart failure nurse. It is recommended to take immunisations for the seasonal flu, pneumonia, and Covid-19.
Regular physical exercise and being physically active in your everyday life has the potential to improve heart failure over time – you should consult with your physician or nurse to discuss which type and intensity of exercise fits you best. If you are smoking, it is very important that you try to quit.
Thinking about the future
Even though there are many promising treatment options, heart failure remains a serious condition. It is hard to predict for an individual, how quickly the condition might progress or if complications might occur. It is good to plan ahead, and to think about what you expect from the future. It may become important for you to talk to your family and health care providers about your wishes for palliative care, hospice care, or end-of-life care. In this section you will learn more about how to manage your heart failure. Click on any of the links to the left to learn more.