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heart and valves 

Mountain States Cardiology
Learning to Live With Heart
Failure



If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, there are many things you can do to help your­self.

living with heart failureExercise

Learn to Balancing rest and exercise

Exercise reduces stress, improves cholesterol levels, helps you lose weight, lowers blood pressure and is a powerful tool in controlling heart failure. It is important to follow your physician's advice about how much exercise is right for you. Choose an exercise you like and can do year-round. Generally walking, bicycling and swimming are good forms of exercise. Your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation includes exercise and educational programs to help build strength and learn how to manage heart failure.

Here are a few guidelines for exercising:

  • Wait 1-2 hours after a meal to begin exercising.
  • Always start exercise with a warm-up, 5 to 10 minutes of stretching or slow walking.
  • Your doctor or nurse can help you calculate your target heart rate.
  • Exercise at your target heart rate. Your target heart rate is how fast your heart should beat during exercise.
  • After exercise, cool down by walking slowly for at least 5 minutes.

Temperature Extremes 

  • Avoid exercising in very hot or very cold tempera­tures.
  • Avoid activity outdoors when temperatures are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and above 80°.
  • During the summer when it is hot and humid, walk early in the morning or late in the day if you are walking outside. Avoid extreme temperatures such as steam baths, saunas, spas and whirlpools until your doctor advises you otherwise.
  • Don't exercise when you are ill or have a fever.
  • Use the "talk test" while you are exercising. If you are breathing so hard you have difficulty talking, SLOW DOWN.

When to stop exercising 

Stop exercising if you have any of these problems:

  • Angina (Chest Pain)
  • Severe or unusual fatigue
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea

Stretches before and after activity  

Principles of Stretching:

  • Breathe slowly, deeply and naturally.
  • Think about the area being stretched. Feel the stretch.
  • Don't stretch too far, hold a stretch in a com­fortable position. It should not hurt to stretch.
  • Do not bounce! Stretch and hold it.
  • Regularity and relaxation are the most impor­tant factors in stretching.
  • Don't compare yourself with others. Proper stretching means stretching within your own limits, relaxed and without comparisons.
  • Stretch before activity and whenever your feel like it. It will always make you feel good.

How to stretch:

  • Start with an easy stretch.
  • Go to a point where you feel a mild tension, relax and hold for 10-15 seconds 

Sex

How soon you resume sexual activities and how frequently you engage in these activities depends on your progress and how you feel. Talk with your doctor. Generally when you are able to walk two flights of stairs without chest pain (angina) or an irregular heart beat, you are probably able to resume sexual activities.

Discuss with your partner any fears or anxieties you might have regarding sex. Don't forget that you can enjoy an intimate relationship by showing affection with hugs, caresses and kisses. Plan a romantic encounter. Choose a time and place when you feel relaxed and not pressured. Try positions that place less strain on your heart. Your doctor may suggest you take a nitroglycerin tablet before beginning sexual activity.

Control blood pressure 

  • High blood pressure cannot be cured but can be controlled.
  • Have blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Control blood pressure with medications as ordered by your doctor.
  • Lose weight.
  • IV Omit salt. 

Physician monitoring

Follow your doctor's advice. Have regular medi­cal checkups. Communicate with your doctor or nurse when your condition changes or new symp­toms occur. Treatment of heart failure requires a team approach. You and your doctor are the most important members of that team. 

Smoking

Smoking deprives the heart of oxygen and makes it beat faster and narrows the arteries. This means the heart works harder and requires more oxygen. Your doctor has information and tools to help you quit smoking.