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Monitoring heart failure

People diagnosed with heart failure, an inability of the heart to pump blood around the body efficiently, may be asked to play an active role in monitoring the disease.

Doctors will give specific instructions, but general tips include:

Monitor your weight

  • Use the same scales.
  • Wear similar clothing each time you weigh yourself.
  • Weigh yourself at the same time each day (for example, when you get up in the morning, before eating and after weeing).
  • Record your weight in a diary or on a calendar.

Seek medical advice if you gain 1 or more kilograms in one day or 2 or more kilograms in one week.

Monitor fluid intake

If your doctor requires you to restrict your fluids, record the amount of liquid you drink/eat every day. You may need to restrict your fluids to eight glasses or cups (which is equal to 1800 ml) every 24 hours. Recording your intake will help ensure that you are not taking in more fluids than you should.

One way to keep track of your fluid intake is to fill a 2 litre container to the top with water and place it in an accessible place in the kitchen. Every time you drink or eat something that is considered a fluid, remove the same amount of water from the container. When the container is empty, you have had your limit of fluids for the day.

Being thirsty does not necessarily mean your body needs more fluid. You need to be careful not to replace the fluids that diuretics (water pills) have helped your body get rid of. Here are some tips for decreasing thirst:

  • Nibble on frozen grapes or strawberries.
  • Suck on chips of ice (not cubes), or a flannel soaked in ice-cold water.
  • Cover your lips with petroleum jelly, flavoured lip balm or lip moisturiser.
  • Suck on hard sweets or chewing gum (sugarless).

Record your urine (wee) output, as recommended by your doctor.

Manage breathing problems

If you have increased breathlessness at night, try sleeping in a reclining chair, use more pillows or use a supportive cushion so that you are resting more upright.

Tips to improve breathing:

  • Listen to your body and slow down when you are short of breath.
  • Conserve your energy by taking breaks throughout the day: read, pay bills, write letters, use the computer for fun.
  • Relax: use music, meditation, or yoga as alternative ways to decrease stress.

If your breathing is causing you concern, seek medical advice.

See your doctor as recommended

 

  • Keep all scheduled appointments with your doctor and consultant. Frequent contact with your doctor or nurse will help you stick to the treatment you’ve been prescribed.
  • If you have questions about your condition, write them down and bring them with you to your appointments. If you have urgent questions, contact your doctor.
  • If you see any other doctor, notify them about your heart failure medication, diet or fluid restrictions. Keep a list of your medications (names, dosages and times taken) and allergies in your wallet or purse to answer questions that the doctor or nurse may ask you.
  • Make sure you know how to treat yourself if you have an infection, such as a cold or the flu, or a fever. Remember: do not take any over-the-counter medication unless you ask your doctor first.
  • Talk to your doctor if you are having sexual problems or depression.
  • Talk to your doctor about having the flu jab every year and the pneumonia vaccine to help you stay healthy.
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