Help yourself

What you can do to help yourself

These are some of the things you can do to help yourself.

Weigh yourself daily

This will help you to identify if you are retaining any fluid. You should always weigh yourself in the morning after you have been to the toilet and before eating or drinking anything. Always try to weigh yourself in the same type of clothing. If your weight has gone up by 2 or 3 lbs and has persisted or increased for more than 2-3 days please contact your heart failure nurse or GP.

Watch the amount of fluid you have each day

Whilst it is important that you drink enough fluid to stay hydrated, it is also important that you do not drink too much fluid. If you should develop severe heart failure, monitoring your fluid intake may become important and your medical team will give you advice about it.

Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can make heart failure symptoms worse so it is best to have no more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol a day. One unit of alcohol equals

  • half a pint (300ml) lager, bitter, cider, or beer (3-5% alcohol)
  • a pub measure (25ml) of spirits such as whisky, vodka, rum, or gin
  • a small glass (100ml) of wine.

Salt

Too much salt can encourage your body to retain water and thereby worsen your symptoms. Salt can also increase your blood pressure. Cutting down on your salt intake will help reduce fluid retention. Don’t forget that there is lots of salt in processed foods such as bacon, cheese, nuts, crisps, sausages and ready meals.

Diet

Eating healthily will help you to feel better. If you are overweight, eating a healthy diet may help you to lose weight. If you think you are underweight, eating a healthy balanced diet will help to make sure you get enough essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Try to eat less sugar and saturated fat (eg cheese, butter, cream).
  • Choose oily fish, lean meat and poultry.
  • Eat more fibre enriched foods eg wholemeal bread, pasta, porridge, potatoes.
  • Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

Some heart failure patients find it difficult to eat a healthy balanced diet and may require supplements to their normal diet. Eating small amounts of food regularly may help. Talk to your heart failure nurse for advice if you think this applies to you.

Exercise

Many people with heart failure benefit from regular exercise and it is important to stay as active as possible. It is important that you do what you can in order to keep your heart as healthy as possible.

Walking is particularly good. If you want to go swimming ask your GP or heart failure nurse whether this is an appropriate form of exercise for you. Build up your level of activity slowly and only do as much as you feel comfortable doing. Listen to your body and if you get very breathless stop or slow down.

Everyone has a different fitness level and ability to exercise. Speak to your heart failure nurse about what level of activity is suitable for your condition.

Smoking

Smoking harms your lungs and heart and will make your condition worse. If you need help to stop smoking ask your nurse for advice. The NHS has specialist nurses who can support you to stop smoking.

Immunisation

‘Flu’ can make people with heart failure feel very unwell. It is important that you get immunised against ‘flu’ every year and that you have the ‘one off’ pneumonia injection. If you know friends and family have flu like symptoms ask them not to visit until they are better.

Pain killers

If you ever feel that you need to take pain relief you should avoid ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory’ medications. Examples of this type of medication contain Ibuprofen and Diclofenac. Ask your heart failure nurse, pharmacist or GP for advice if you are not sure what to take.

Medications

Always take your prescribed medication. The medications prescribed for you are very effective but only if they are taken properly. Ensure that you have a continuous and adequate supply.

Please do not stop taking your medication suddenly without seeking medical advice.

Websites that may be particularly useful