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Often cardiologists who specialize in heart failure can work together with primary care doctors and other health care providers. Certain symptoms need to be checked by a doctor. If you have any of these symptoms, call your health care provider for an appointment. If the symptoms are severe or of sudden onset, seek immediate emergency care.

  • You have shortness of breath that seems to be getting worse or causes difficulty sleeping.
  • You fall asleep in bed but wake up at night with shortness of breath.
  • You sleep better in a semi-upright position in a chair or recliner than flat in bed.
  • Your shortness of breath develops with mild exertion and is worse than usual.
  • You have unusual fatigue that is not relieved with rest.
  • You have a dry cough that will not go away or seems otherwise unusual.
  • You have swelling in your ankles, feet, or legs that does not go away.
  • Other, more subtle symptoms of heart failure warrant a visit to your health care provider, especially if linked to any of the symptoms already listed.

  • Abdominal  bloating or discomfort
  • Persistently pale skin
  • Poor appetite

Other than childbirth, congestive heart failure is the most common reason for hospital admission in the United States, especially for people older than 65 years. This highlights the fact that many people with heart failure will have to go to the hospital, either at the beginning of their illness or from time to time because of it. Always take chest pain seriously. Although failure of the heart does not cause pain, several important conditions associated with congestive heart failure do.

If these symptoms develop quickly or worsen rapidly, seek emergency treatment.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe, unrelieved chest pain
  • Swelling in the legs that becomes painful, even in one leg, especially if associated with signs of an infection (redness, warmth to the touch, fever )
  • Fainting
Self-Care at Home
  • Congestive heart failure is a serious medical condition that requires professional medical help.
  • Once diagnosed and under the care of a qualified medical professional, you can and should do several things at home to increase your comfort and reduce the chance of your condition getting worse.
  • In fact, the more active role you take in managing your heart failure , the more likely you are to do well.
  • Making the lifestyle changes described here will make a real difference. Not only will you feel better, but you will be increasing your chances of a longer, healthier life.

Treat swelling with the following measures:

  • Elevate the feet and legs if they are swollen.
  • Eat a reduced-salt diet.
  • weight in every morning before breakfast and record it in a diary that can be shown to a health care provider.

Avoid the following:

  • Not taking prescribed medication
  • Smoking (in all forms)
  • Alcohol (up to 1 drink per day is usually fine, unless prone to excessive intake/alcoholism)
  • Keep walking or join a cardiac rehabilitation program (this program can monitor increasing or decreasing exercise capacity)
  • Excessive emotional stress and/or depression (Moderate-to-severe mental depression  has been shown to double mortality risk.)
  • High altitude (Breathing is more difficult because of the lower level of oxygen in the atmosphere; pressurized cabin air travel is usually fine.)
  • Herbal or other complementary medicine without first consulting a doctor to see if they are safe
Know the following:
  • People with diabetes must control their blood sugar level every day. Know the HbA1C level. It should be less than 7.0, preferably less than 6.5.
  • People with high blood pressure  should measure it regularly, and make sure they know the value, (systolic pressure should be below 140 mm Hg in everyone and even below 130 if the person has diabetes).
  • People with elevated lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) can take medications to get the bad cholesterol, or LDL, below 100, and the triglycerides below 150.


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