Home TIPS How you can take action against heart failure
How you can take action against heart failure PDF Print E-mail

(ARA) - It's a syndrome that affects more than 5 million Americans - and probably more: heart failure. Heart failure is a serious illness that can affect your quality of life and how long you live.  With proper medications in the right doses and careful management, you can live longer and feel better.

What's important to know is that heart failure doesn't develop overnight. It's a progressive condition - it starts when the heart muscle is weakened after being injured.

The Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) offers these tips to patients, their families and individuals at risk.

1. Talk to your doctor. One of the keys to making heart disease a diagnosis you can live with is to get diagnosed as early as possible. Simply getting checked by your doctor for heart disease is one of the most powerful steps you can take to maintain your health. Heart failure is diagnosed through a number of tests ordered by your doctor, the most important of which is an echocardiogram or "echo."

2. Know your risk factors. A number of factors can lead to or indicate an increased risk of heart failure. While the disease can strike people of all ages, it is more common in those aged 65 and older. For people in that age group, it's particularly important to get checked, because some of the symptoms of the disease can be mistakenly attributed to simple aging. Heart failure risks include: high blood pressure, prior heart attack, a history of heart murmurs, an enlarged heart, diabetes and a family history of enlarged heart.

3. Know the symptoms. Ideally, your doctor can diagnose heart failure before it has major consequences, but it's important to know the symptoms. Heart failure symptoms include: shortness of breath, even in mild activity; difficulty breathing when lying down; weight gain with swelling in the legs and ankles from fluid retention; and general fatigue and weakness. If you notice these, don't just assume that they're part of the aging process - be proactive and check with your doctor.

4. Adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle. Changing your lifestyle to be more heart-healthy doesn't mean giving up on a way of life you enjoy. In fact, it can add to your enjoyment of life and have the double benefit of being good for your health. Start by giving up any tobacco use and focusing on a healthy diet. Center your meals on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes - consult cookbooks or cooking magazines for delicious, low-sodium recipes. Other great ingredients are lean meats, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy. Keep trans-fats, saturated fats and cholesterol intake low.

The other enjoyable element of a healthy lifestyle is exercise. Talk to your doctor about what's right for you, but he will inevitably tell you that it's a great idea to get your body moving. It can be as simple as going for daily walks that let you take in the beauty of nature or, if you're able to take on a more strenuous regimen, you could think about trying a sport like tennis, taking yoga classes or going swimming. If you can find an exercise companion, so much the better - you'll both be getting the benefit of exercise and have a motivating partner.

The Heart Failure Society of America offers a number of tips covering a variety of topics including low-salt diet, medications, self-care, heart rhythm problems and lifestyle changes. To learn more, visit abouthf.org. When you take an active role in your health, it's possible to live a full, enjoyable life, even after a heart failure diagnosis.

Courtesy of ARAcontent
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