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Lifestyle Changes
Weight Management

Obesity is a risk factor for hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Excess weight puts extra strain on the heart. The heart has a harder time delivering the excess needs for oxygen to tissues of the body. If you are overweight, you may find that you become short of breath with minimal exertion. Losing weight can help you feel better and help your heart function better too. Assess your current standing on our body mass index chart. An optimal body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 25.

Your doctor can suggest a weight reduction plan for you, if necessary, or can refer you to a registered dietitian. Some general weight loss tips are to avoid high calorie foods, reduce portion sizes, and avoid fats, oils, and sugars.

It is a good idea to keep track of your weight on a daily basis. Weigh yourself at the same time each day and record your weight on our daily weight chart. This way you can report to your doctor any fluctuations in your weight. Notify your doctor of a sudden weight gain of five or more pounds, as this may be due to fluid retention. This fluid can increase the strain on your heart.

Alternatively, excessive weight loss may be a concern if you have advanced heart failure. If you are consistently losing weight, check with your doctor or a registered dietician for a healthy plan for gaining weight.


Although we cannot eliminate stress from our lives, we can control it. It’s important to take time out of our busy schedules to relax and enjoy ourselves. A positive attitude is always beneficial. Living a full life with heart failure requires that you take one day at a time and take care of yourself. Listen to your body’s signals. Stop activities that make you feel unwell, and do not limit activities that you really enjoy. Spend time with loved ones and enjoy living.


Smoking is bad for your heart as well as your lungs. Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide which interferes with your body’s oxygen carrying ability. Smoking is a risk factor for coronary artery disease and heart failure. Check out the American Heart Association’s plan to stop smoking for good.


Alcohol can depress the contraction function of the heart. If you choose to drink alcohol, you should consume no more than one drink per day. One drink is equivalent to one glass of beer or wine, or a mixed drink containing no more than one ounce of alcohol. In more serious situations of heart failure, you should avoid alcohol altogether.

Support Structures

Family and friends are fundamental support structures for heart failure patients. Support groups for heart failure exist, but they are relatively few in number. Check with your local hospital for groups in your area.

Whatever atmosphere you choose, it is important to have a means of sharing your emotions. Anxieties and fears can often be relieved by talking to others. By letting your family and friends know how you feel, they will better be able to help you cope with heart failure and will offer you the support you need.

Comfort tips

Two of the most common symptoms of heart failure are shortness of breath and edema. Some patients find it easier to breathe at night if they sleep with a couple of pillows behind their backs. Also, support stockings may help alleviate edema in the ankles and legs during the day. Make sure that the elastic is not so tight that it restricts your circulation.

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