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Finding the Right Treatment for Heart Failure

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8 Lifestyle Changes to Manage Heart Failure

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Beasley on January 21, 2022
  • middle-aged-couple-kayaking
    Change Does a Body Good
    Heart failure may sound a bit scary, but it’s actually a treatable condition that can improve with some basic lifestyle changes. These tips can help your heart work more efficiently so it keeps going strong for many years to come. Of course, change can be hard, but it’s worth it to control heart failure symptoms in a natural way and feel better each day.
  • man-hiking-up-hill
    1. Get Moving
    If your heart failure condition is stable, exercise is a great way to improve blood flow and build your heart’s strength. Just be sure to discuss your exercise plan with your doctor first. Start small with 5-15 minutes of walking, 3-5 times a week. Over time, you can build up to more frequent 30-45 minute walks. Be sure not to push yourself and your heart too hard. Slow your pace, shorten your distance or take a rest break if you ever feel winded or exhausted.
  • man-on-weight-scale
    2. Watch Your Weight
    For chronic heart failure patients, watching your weight means more than just counting calories. Sudden weight gain, such as 2 to 3 pounds a day or 5 pounds in a week, could be a sign you’re retaining fluids and your condition is getting worse. Monitor your weight daily so you’ll notice any drastic changes. It’s also smart to maintain a healthy weight because it puts less stress on your heart.
  • cigarette-stubs-in-ashtray
    3. Stop Smoking
    Quitting smoking can be one of the toughest lifestyle changes to make and one of the best for people with heart failure. Smoking causes damage to the lining of your arteries, raises your blood pressure, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, and harms your heart muscle. Talk with your doctor about finding the right program to help you quit and avoid secondhand smoke when possible.
  • woman-picking-out-fruits-and-vegetables-at-market
    4. Adjust Your Diet
    Tweaking your diet to include heart-healthy foods has huge benefits like lowering your cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. One of the keys to a diet designed for managing heart failure is to cut back on salt and fats. Besides raising your blood pressure, excess dietary sodium can make you retain more fluid. We all know how dietary fats can lead to clogged arteries. Focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy and fish. Avoid red meats, fried foods, and sugar.
  • couple-sleeping-in-bed
    5. Sleep Better
    Sleep is great for your body in general and getting enough is essential to managing heart problems. Try propping up your head with a few pillows for better rest, especially if you have trouble breathing at night. You may even find it more comfortable to sleep in an armchair. As you get more rest, you’ll feel more energized for activity during waking hours.
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  • glasses of red and white wine on table
    6. Limit Alcohol and Fluids
    Alcohol can damage your heart muscle, increase your risk of abnormal heart rhythms and interact poorly with medications. Most doctors recommend that you avoid alcohol entirely. They may also suggest limiting fluids of any kind if you are experiencing fluid retention and swelling. Talk to your doctor about fluid consumption to find out what’s right for your body.
  • man-in-yoga-class
    7. Reduce Stress
    Stress is bad for your body in many ways, but it can be especially tough on your heart. Anxiety can make your heart beat faster and sometimes triggers heart failure. Fortunately, managing stress is one of the most fun lifestyle changes you can make. Put your feet up and relax with friends. Try a yoga class or meditation. Get regular massages and experiment with aromatherapy. Do more of whatever relaxes you and makes you feel more at ease.
  • healthcare-professional-giving-advice-to-patient
    8. Seek Support
    Making these lifestyle changes can seem overwhelming, so look for sources of support like a cardiac rehabilitation program. Doctors typically recommend cardiac rehab after you’ve experienced a cardiac event, but now some programs offer preventive participation to people with chronic heart failure. You can learn more about lifestyle adjustments from healthcare professionals and practice your new skills with people like you who are trying to keep their heart healthy for the long haul.
8 Lifestyle Changes to Manage Heart Failure

About The Author

Elizabeth has been writing for Healthgrades since 2014 and specializes in articles about alternative and complementary therapies like meditation, yoga, energy work and aromatherapy. She also performs improv comedy and is a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine.
  1. What is Heart Failure? American Heart Association.
  2. How to Prevent and Control Coronary Disease Risk Factors. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
  3. Heart failure. Mayo Clinic.
  4. Heart Failure: Making Lifestyle Changes. American College of Cardiology.
  5. Lifestyle Changes If You Have Heart Failure. The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions.
  6. Living with Heart Failure. Baylor.

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Last Review Date: 2022 Jan 21
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