Diagnosis of a chronic condition is often difficult to hear. You start doing your research. You focus on the worst. And fear becomes a new daily norm.
Congestive heart failure doesn’t mean your heart isn’t working. It means your heart no longer pumps enough blood throughout your system, the way it once did. Think of diagnosis as a wakeup call. It’s a way of telling you to change your habits to stop the condition from worsening.
When you’re diagnosed with heart failure, the blood moving away from your heart slows down. Because the blood returning operates in a more normal manner, the blood in your veins begins to block up, causing congestion throughout your body. This can cause problems in a variety of ways, from swelling in your legs, to fluid buildup in your lungs.
According to a fact sheet put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about one-half of all people diagnosed with heart failure will die within the first five years. The people that live longer after diagnosis are the ones that look for ways to manage the condition and make lifestyle changes to prevent it from worsening.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure, it’s important to realize that it is a chronic condition. It will get worse over time. However, you can manage it to the point it slows down the progression, and the symptoms reduce right along with it.
Millions of people are living active lives with heart failure. While you shouldn’t change everything about your lifestyle immediately, small changes over time can reward you with big improvements not only with the way you feel, but your outlook on life too.
The biggest change should be to get up and exercise. The American Heart Association recommends doing at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least five days a week. You should never feel breathless. Always check with your doctor before starting up a new routine. And then find something that’s fun for you to do. Look for a gym that offers wellness programs that cater to slower movement classes, something you can work up to over time.
You should also work to change your diet. Again, work with your doctor to decide the right steps for you. They may include lowering salt, reducing fat intake, reducing the amount of meat, adding more fruits and vegetables. You should also drink more water, and decrease your alcohol intake.
Other lifestyle changes should include:
- Stop smoking
- Getting adequate sleep
- Reducing stress
- Avoid sugar
For some, medication may also be a part of the routine. Be sure to discuss how any new medicines will work in conjunction with prescriptions you are already on. Watch for any changes in your health, and be diligent in working with your doctor towards reducing the amount of medicine you take each day.