Diseases and Conditions Heart Diseases Living With Heart Failure

Heart failure usually cannot be cured and you will likely have to take medication for the rest of your life. It is important that you know that your symptoms may get worse over time. As your symptoms get worse, you may not be able to do many of the things that you did before you had heart failure.

Treatment can relieve your symptoms and make it easier to do some of the things that you like to do. Treatment can also reduce the chance that you will have to go to the hospital. For these reasons, it is very important that you follow your treatment plan. You must:

* Take all of your medications as your doctor prescribed
* Make all of the lifestyle changes recommended by your doctor
* Keep all of your doctor's appointments

Common causes of worsening of symptoms that can lead to a crisis or even a hospital visit are:

* Forgetting to take your medicines
* Not following your diet (such as eating salty foods)
* Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol

If you have trouble following your diet, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help arrange for a dietitian to work with you on how to keep to a healthy diet. Alcohol also makes your symptoms worse. If you drink alcohol, don't do so very often and limit yourself to one drink. If you have severe heart failure, you should not drink alcohol.

People with heart failure often have other serious conditions that require ongoing treatment. If you have other conditions, it is likely that you are taking medications for those conditions as well as for heart failure. When taking several medications, there is always a chance for side effects and interaction between the medications. Tell your doctor immediately about any problems that you notice with your medications. Also, talk with your doctor before adding any new medicine. This includes over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements.

It is also important that you try to avoid respiratory infections like the flu and pneumonia. Ask your doctor or nurse about getting a flu shot and pneumonia vaccination.

It is helpful to have certain information on hand in case you need to go to the hospital or doctor right away. You should plan now to make sure that you have:

* Phone numbers for the doctor, hospital, and people who can take you to the hospital or doctor
* Directions to the hospital and doctor's office
* List of medications you are taking

Source: National Institutes of Health
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