Heart failure (HF) is a long-term condition that may worsen gradually. It can occur at any age; however, it is more common at old age.1
The treatment for heart failure aims at controlling the symptoms and slowing down the progression of the condition. Doctors commonly advise people with HF to make some positive lifestyle changes that may help them to manage the condition.1 In this article, we suggest some useful tips for healthy living in people with HF.
What happens in heart failure?
In HF, the heart lacks the capacity to pump enough blood that can meet the body’s demands. The condition may affect either one side of the heart or both sides. The condition does not mean that the heart has stopped working, but it suggests that the heart does not pump the blood in its full capacity.2
The weakening of the heart’s activity leads to the following symptoms:2
- Blood and fluid backup in the lungs
- Fluid accumulates in the feet, ankles and legs, causing oedema
- Shortness of breath
What are the causes of heart failure?
Heart failure often occurs as the last stage of another heart condition.
The conditions that may cause HF are as follows:3
- Coronary artery disease (blockages in the artery)
- Disorders of heart valves
- High blood pressure
- Congenital heart disorders
- Irregular heart rate
- Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)
- Heart attack
- Lung disease
- Exposure to toxins such as excessive alcohol
Usually, people with HF require lifelong treatment. The treatment includes lifestyle changes, medicines, surgical procedures such as a bypass or heart transplant, or implanting a device to control the heart rate.1
Can lifestyle changes benefit people with heart failure?
Studies reveal that lifestyle factors such as poor diet, obesity and lack of physical activity contribute to the early onset of HF. Several studies prove that lifestyle management can help to prevent and control HF.4
The following useful tips can help you be healthy if you have HF:4,5
- Quit smoking: Cigarette smoke contains nicotine, which raises the blood pressure and heart rate. Smoking also leads to sticky deposits in the blood vessels. Quitting smoking can benefit heart health.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Sudden weight gain or loss can be a sign of HF. So maintain a healthy weight by losing excess body weight. Losing weight can dramatically improve the symptoms of HF.
- Keep a watch on your fluid intake: People with HF have a tendency to retain fluid in the body. Therefore, it is necessary to the monitor fluid intake. Your doctor can help you find out the recommended quantity of fluid for you to prevent fluid retention.
- Avoid alcohol: Modest intake of alcohol can help in controlling obesity, a risk factor in HF. Limiting alcohol intake can help people with HF.
- Avoid caffeine: Restrict your caffeine intake if you have HF.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: Avoid trans-fats, saturated fats, red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. Restrict your sodium intake. Include fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts in your diet. Studies have shown that these dietary changes may prevent HF.
- Be physically active: Make physical activity a daily part of your routine. You may participate in a structured rehabilitation programme if you have HF. Doctors recommend exercise training as a treatment for HF. Walking for 30 minutes for at least 5 days a week and aerobic activity can improve heart health. The comprehensive management of HF may also include muscle and strength training in HF patients or high-risk groups.
- Manage your stress: Studies show that yoga, breathing exercises and meditation are beneficial in managing HF. It reduces stress through a reduction in the inflammatory process and improves exercise capacity. Chant-based meditation techniques help to manage anxiety and depression in people with HF. Tai-chi can also improve the quality of life in people with HF.
- Use supplements: Supplements such as antioxidants and vitamin supplements can be beneficial in people with HF.
Track your symptoms with regular check-ups, take medicines regularly, maintain blood pressure and follow guidelines related to sexual activity for people with HF. Get a flu vaccine as flu might put an extra burden on the working of your heart. These changes in your routine can make a good impact on the quality of your life.5
Using the above tips in daily life can help people with HF have a healthy life. We hope this article will help you make healthier choices to manage HF and avoid worsening of the existing condition.
Make healthy lifestyle changes; choose to live a healthy life even if you have HF!
- NHS. Heart failure [Internet]. [updated 2018 Oct 26; cited 2019 Dec 24]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-failure/.
- MedlinePlus. Heart failure [Internet]. [updated 2019 Dec 13; cited 2019 Dec 24]. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/heartfailure.html.
- Harvard Medical School. Heart failure [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 24]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/heart-failure-a-to-z.
- Aggarwal M, Bozkurt B, Panjrath G, Aggarwal B, Ostfeld RJ, Barnard ND, et al. Lifestyle modifications for preventing and treating heart failure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018 Nov 6;72(19):2391-2405. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.08.2160.
- American Heart Association. Lifestyle changes for heart failure [Internet]. [updated 2017 May 31; cited 2019 Dec 24]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/treatment-options-for-heart-failure/lifestyle-changes-for-heart-failure.