Living with Heart Failure
Keep a close eye on your symptoms
Strategies for adjusting to life with heart failure
Heart failure comes in varying degrees of severity and the symptoms may impact people differently. You may barely notice any difference to your life, or you may have to make more adjustments to your lifestyle in order to maintain a high standard of living. This can also change over time, as you get older or as other factors may come into play. That’s why we advise you to keep a close eye on your symptoms and be sure to track them. For that reason, we have created a useful symptoms tracker to help you with the process. If any of your symptoms change it is important you consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Here’s what you should keep an eye out for, and make note of any changes1,2:
Shortness of breath
Swelling – notably in the ankles, feet or lower legs
Tiredness or fatigue
Heart rate – especially if you feel your heart is racing or throbbing
Lack of appetite and nausea
Persistent coughing or wheezing
Disorientation or confusion – HF means that blood may not be getting pumped around your body properly. This can cause too little oxygen or too much sodium which can affect your mood.
Tracking other factors that affect your day-to-day life such as sleep, weight and general mood/anxiety is a good habit to follow for any condition, and should always be registered with your doctor3.
Maintaining a strong support network
Keeping an eye on your mental health.
It is important to keep a close and strong support network around you when living with heart failure. For some people, the change in lifestyle and usual ways of going about day to day activities can have a large impact on their mental health. It is perfectly natural to feel down or struggle with your condition. However, it is important to try and maintain a positive mental attitude and not let your disease define your lifestyle. Make sure you have someone close, a friend or loved one, that you can talk to about your condition. If your condition is impacting your mental health heavily, you could consider seeing a therapist5.
Another consideration would be finding and joining a support group for heart failure in your area. These groups can be a great source of strength, aid and encouragement. Hearing from people in the same situation as you can bring hope and, with time, allow you to possibly bring hope to others, too. Ask your doctor or local health service for any information on support groups in your area.
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Continuing to work
For most people, unless their job is particularly physically demanding, there should be little reason to stop working5. In fact, continuing to work can boost your mood and morale overall while reducing any stress around threats to your financial stability. Talk openly to your employer and HR representative about this; they will guide you in your decision and try to provide a solution that works best. In some forms of employment, it may mean a shift in your usual tasks, or perhaps cutting down the amount of days or time you work each day, where possible.
Unless someone has a very severe case of heart failure, there should be little to no impact on their ability to travel; however, they should always check in with their doctor first and confirm it with them, and only ever travel if they feel physically well and able5.
If flying, always first inform the airline of their condition. Depending on the severity of their disease they may need assistance getting around the airport, or from the gate to the aircraft. On long haul flights it is important to move about in order to reduce the risk of blood clots, ensure they ask a doctor for information on what small exercises would suit them best. They may also consider wearing compression socks5.
It is also a good practice/habit to take extra medication and keep it with you, should baggage be lost, stolen or any items misplaced. Keep in mind that most heart failure medication will be prescription based and you may struggle to purchase any more in your country of destination without the prescription of a local doctor5.
- Symptoms of heart failure. Available online at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-failure/symptoms/. Last accessed August 25 2020
- Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of Heart Failure. Available online at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373142. Last accessed August 25 2020
- Routine self-tracking of health. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5977566/. Last accessed 16 September 2020.
- Tips for caring for someone with heart failure. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-failure/caregiving-tips. Last accessed 16 September 2020.
- Living with heart failure. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-failure/living-with/. Last accessed 16 September 2020.