Here are a few tips that can help you make a difference in the way you feel right away:
- Start making some changes today - whatever your condition will allow. Begin an exercise program (with your doctor's permission), take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk a little farther than you usually do in a day.
- Weigh yourself at the same time each morning, preferably before breakfast and after urinating. Notify your doctor if you gain three or more pounds in one day, five or more pounds in one week, or whatever amount you were told to report.
- To give your heart a rest, try napping after lunch or putting your feet up for a few minutes every couple of hours. Or put your feet up while watching TV.
- Quit smoking - you'll eliminate a major source of stress on your heart.
To improve your sleep at night, use pillows to prop up your head, and avoid naps and big meals right before bedtime.
Ask your healthcare team about enrolling in a cardiac rehabilitation program. That will allow you to start exercising slowly under medical supervision.
- When exercising, always stay within your physician's recommendations and your own comfort zone. Avoid activity right after meals or when it's very hot or humid.
- Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful scene. Or try a class in yoga or meditation (check with your doctor first).
- Exercise at the same time of day so it becomes a regular part of your lifestyle. For example, you might walk every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon for 30 minutes.
- Count to 10 before responding when you feel angry. It will reduce your stress.
- Join a support group for people with heart failure and other heart conditions.
- Ask your doctor about getting a yearly flu vaccine and a one-time pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine. These will guard against illnesses that could put more stress on the heart.
- Many people with heart failure can still have sex. Choose a time when you're feeling rested and free from the day's stresses.
- Contact local churches, religious congregations and volunteer centers to find out about programs that provide meals, transportation and errand services for people who need assistance.