Dietary changes and weight management:
Eat a low-sodium diet. Limit sodium intake to less than 2,000 mg per day. Read food labels carefully and avoid adding salt when cooking or at the table. Some high sodium foods to avoid include canned soups or veggies, frozen meals, lunch meats, salad dressings, and condiments.
Follow a heart-healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. Bake, broil, or grill meats instead of frying. Choose skinless poultry and fish more often.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Losing extra pounds takes pressure off your heart. Work with your doctor and dietitian to determine your ideal body weight based on factors like your height, age, gender.
Limit added sugars and refined carbohydrates, which can cause blood sugar and insulin spikes. Opt for whole, minimally processed carbohydrates like brown rice, oats, quinoa, beans, lentils, potatoes instead.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and allow your heart to function more efficiently. Aim for a minimum of 8 glasses per day.
Engage in regular aerobic exercise on most days of the week according to your abilities. Activities like walking, using a stationary bike, swimming, and water aerobics are great options.
Start slowly if you have not exercised before. Consult your doctor on the appropriate intensity and duration based on your functional capacity. Slowly increase your activity levels over time under medical guidance.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most or all days. It’s okay to break it up into smaller 10 minute chunks if needed.
Incorporate strength training exercises using free weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight twice a week. This helps build muscle and increase metabolism.
Use relaxation techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi to help cope with stress. Make it part of your daily self-care routine.
Prioritize sleep and aim for 7-8 hours every night. Poor sleep overworks the cardiovascular system.
Spend time doing activities you enjoy every day like a hobby, reading, spending time with loved ones. Good social connections and a positive approach to life helps lower stress.
Reduce alcohol intake:
Limit alcoholic drinks to no more than 1-2 per day for men, and 1 drink per day for women. Too much alcohol is hard on the heart and liver.
Avoid binge drinking completely since it causes irregular heartbeats and increases heart failure risks.
If you smoke, quit. Smoking significantly increases heart disease risks. Consult your doctor about available smoking cessation programs and strategies. Use nicotine replacement treatment if needed.
Avoid secondhand smoke too. Don’t let others smoke around you.
Take medications as prescribed:
Heart failure symptoms often worsen if medications are missed or not taken correctly. Use a pill dispenser or daily checklist to stay on track. Time dosage with meals if instructed.
Carry your medications with you outside the house so you don’t forget a dose if away from home. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have.
See your doctor as scheduled for medication adjustments, refills, and to monitor your condition over time. Medication changes are common to ensure the most effective management.
Weigh yourself daily and record your weight on a calendar or tracker to spot sudden weight gain from fluid retention early. Report increases of 3 pounds or more in a day to your doctor.
Check your ankles, legs and abdomen for swelling and call your healthcare team if you notice it. Swelling could mean your fluid levels need adjusting.
Track your symptoms, exercise durations, diet and other lifestyle factors in a journal. This helps you identify patterns and report changes accurately to your clinician.
Lifestyle changes take commitment but can go a long way in managing heart failure and preventing complications over the long run when combined with medical therapy. Remember to start slowly, celebrate even small successes, and speak to your doctor anytime you have difficulty adhering to recommendations. A heart-healthy lifestyle is vital for ongoing heart health.