How Can I Live With Heart Failure?

Updated:Feb 8,2013
About 6 million Americans are living with heart failure today. In fact, it's one of the most common reasons people 64 and older go into the hospital.

Fortunately, heart failure can be treated. Getting good medical care, following doctor's orders and learning about hear failure will help you lead a comfortable life.

You can help by taking your medicine as your doctor tells you, and by following your eating and exercise plans.

What medicine might I take?
The goal of heart failure treatment is to help you live a longer, better-quality life. Treating the causes of heart failure with medication can lessen tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath and swelling. It also helps improve your energy level so you can be physically active.

Here are some examples of medicines that may be prescribed:
  1. Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitor—lowers blood pressure and decreased the hearts workload.
  2. Angiotensin Receptor Blocker (ARB)—lowers blood pressure.
  3. Diuretic—helps your body get rid of extra water and sodium.
  4. Beta-blocker—lowers blood pressure and slows heart rate.
  5. Digoxin—helps your heart pump better.
  6. Vasodilator—lowers blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels and allowing them to open (dilate).
What should I watch out for?

Tell you doctor right away if...
  • You gain 3 or more pounds in a day or so. 
  • You see that your feet, ankles or other parts of your body are puffy.
  • It's hard to breathe.
  • You can't do what you could do the day before.
  • You have "the flu."
  • You get a fever.
  • You have chest pain.
Other ways to tell that your heart might not be working the way it should be include:
  • Coughing up pinkish, blood-tinged mucus.
  • Confusion, difficulty thinking, dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Changes in your eating habits or appetite.
What will help me get better?

  • Visit the doctor and follow his or her advice.
  • Read food labels and avoid foods high in salt or sodium.
  • Start an aerobic exercise plan as you doctor advises.
  • Keep up your interests and be upbeat!
My doctor's advice

Ask your doctor to fill in the blanks with recommendations that will hep you recover.

Medicine Notes:
Diet Notes:
Exercise Notes:

How can I learn more?
  1. Talk to you doctor, nurse or other healthcare professionals. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of you family also may be at a higher risk. It's very important for them to make changes now to lower their risk.
  2. Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit heart.org to learn more about heart disease.
  3. For information on stroke, call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653), or visit us online at StrokeAssociation.org.

We have many other fact sheets and educational booklets to help you make  healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit heart.org/answersbyheart to learn more.

Knowledge is power, so Learn and Live!

Do you have questions or comments for your doctor or nurse?

Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider. For example:

How can my family help me?

Should I stay in bed?


©2012, American Heart Association


Multi-language Fact Sheet Topics

Heart-related Conditions
What is Angina?
What is an Arrhythmia?
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
How Can I Lower High Cholesterol?
What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
What Are High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
What Is High Blood Pressure?
How Can I Reduce High Blood Pressure?
High Blood Pressure and Stroke
What Is Diabetes and How Can I Manage It?
How Can I Live With Heart Failure?
What Is Heart Failure?
What Is a Heart Attack?
How Will I Recover From My Heart Attack?
What Are the Warning Signs of Heart Attack?
What Are Heart Disease and Stroke?
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Stroke, Recovery and Caregiving
Hemorrhagic Stroke
Ischemic Stroke
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke
Stroke Diagnosis
Changes Caused by Stroke
Emotional Changes After Stroke
Feeling Tired After a Stroke
Stroke and Rehabilitation
Stroke Family Caregivers
How Should I Care for Myself as a Caregiver?

Treatment, Tests and Procedures
What is Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine?
What is High Blood Pressure Medicine?
What Are Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents?
What Is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator?
What Is a Pacemaker?
What Is Coronary Angioplasty?
What is a Stent?
What is Coronary Bypass Surgery?
What is a Coronary Angiogram?
How Can I Recover From Heart Surgery?
What is Carotid Endarterectomy?

Healthy Lifestyle and Risk Reduction
How Can I Manage My Weight?
How Can Physical Activity Become a Way of Life?
Why Should I Be Physically Active?
How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?
Why Should I Limit Sodium?
How Do I Read "Nutrition Facts" Labels?
How Can I Quit Smoking?
How Can I Manage Stress?
How Can I Make My Lifestyle Healthier?
How Can I Monitor My Cholesterol, Blood Pressure and Weight?