A person uses the Cormeum app on their smartphone.

Living with Heart Failure: 5 Things to Track Daily

APRIL 29, 2024


Chances are you’ve come across this blog post because you or someone you love has recently received a heart failure diagnosis. It’s not a club you’re thrilled to join, but as your doctor probably told you, heart failure is treatable. With the help of medical care and lifestyle changes, you can live well with heart failure. 

This blog will be your go-to guide to living with your new heart failure diagnosis. Keep reading for a look at: 

  • Symptoms you should track to stay on top of self-management.
  • Treatment options to discuss with your health care team. 
  • Lifestyle and diet changes you can start now to slow progression and help you live your best life with heart failure. 

What Is Heart Failure? 

Hearing the words “heart failure” makes you think that your heart has failed. What heart failure means, though, is that your heart is having trouble pumping enough blood to meet your body’s needs. 

There are four stages of heart failure, and your doctor will determine what stage you are in: 

  • Stage A: Pre-Heart Failure. In this stage, patients are at high risk of developing heart failure. They are likely not experiencing symptoms, but they may be experiencing one or all of the precursors to heart failure, such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease or other risk factors. 
  • Stage B: Silent Heart Failure. These patients are not experiencing symptoms of heart failure, but they have been diagnosed with structural damage to the heart. 
  • Stage C: Symptomatic Heart Failure. When patients have structural heart disease and are experiencing symptoms of heart failure, they are moved to this disease classification. 
  • Stage D: End-Stage Heart Failure. Patients in Stage D have significant symptoms that do not get better with treatment. These patients experience symptoms even when they are at rest or with minimal exertion. 

Managing Heart Failure: Your New Normal

A heart failure diagnosis can feel like a loss of control — and that can be overwhelming. You can take back some of that feeling by coming up with a plan (in partnership with your health care team) to build new, healthy habits.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), “people who report greater improvement and emotional well-being often build new habits around eating better, tracking and managing their symptoms and exercising (as directed by their health care team).”

This sounds simple enough, but lifestyle changes are rarely easy. Thriving in your new normal requires a plan and a support system made up of your care team and loved ones. You may feel like giving up (or not starting in the first place), but remember that the treatments and changes you’re starting now will work together to increase both your longevity and quality of life. 

The good news is that your new routine will become easier the more you practice it. Feeling informed about your heart failure treatment and thinking positively about these changes will help you feel in control of your new normal. 

5 Things to Track Daily for Heart Failure Self-Management

All of the members of your health care team are important, but the one with the most important job is YOU! Only you can track your heart failure symptoms, take your medications and report how you’re doing to your doctor. This information is essential so your health care team can customize your treatment plan and you can feel your best.

You can track your symptoms with pen and paper, but apps like Cormeum make it easy to track and share this information with your health care provider. 

1. Symptom Changes
Part of your everyday routine will be checking in with yourself and how your body feels. According to the AHA, these are the symptoms you’ll need to be monitoring every day:

  • Shortness of breath, especially if you have trouble catching your breath while at rest.
  • Increased swelling of the lower limbs (legs or ankles).
  • Abdominal swelling or pain.
  • Difficulty sleeping (waking up short of breath, needing more pillows, coughing).
  • Frequent dry, hacking cough.
  • Increased fatigue or feeling tired all the time.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • General weakness or dizziness.
  • Bluish color in your fingers and lips.
  • Nausea, loss of appetite.
  • Feeling like your heart is beating too hard or irregularly
  • Mental health changes, such as feeling sad or depressed. 

2. Sodium Intake
Limiting sodium intake is important because sodium attracts fluid, which can increase your blood pressure. The excess fluid also makes your heart work harder. 

Your doctor will give you the recommended range to keep your intake within and may discuss the DASH eating plan with you. This eating plan was created for people with hypertension and heart failure. It focuses on reduced sodium intake, eating less red meat and limiting sugars. Although it may seem to be taking the fun out of life, it can be enjoyable to work with whoever is responsible for cooking in your home to find new heart-friendly recipes and ways of preparing foods that still taste great and keep your heart healthy. 

3. Fluid Intake and Output
Limiting fluids can ease swelling and thus the workload on your heart. Your health care provider will recommend the ideal range for you. 

4. Medications
Even if you have no signs or symptoms of heart failure, your doctor may prescribe medications to stop or slow the progression of the disease. If you are having symptoms, medication can help with fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling so that you can be physically active. 

5. Weight
It’s important to weigh yourself every day at a consistent time. Gaining more than three pounds in one day or five pounds in one week is a sign to call your doctor right away. This may indicate fluid retention and signal that the heart is having a hard time pumping blood. 

Treatment Options

There are a variety of treatment options available to help those with heart failure live more active lives. Work with your provider to implement the right combination of treatments and lifestyle adjustments. 

Lifestyle Changes 
Doctor-approved exercise, a heart-healthy diet, monitoring your weight, quitting smoking, getting enough rest and managing stress are all ways to positively influence your health. 

Cardiac Rehab
Cardiac rehab is a program overseen by key members of your health care team and can be a vital step on the road to recovery. It includes counseling, education, support, training and a customized physical activity program. Your primary care physician, cardiologist, dietitians, physical and occupational therapists, pharmacists and others will all create a plan tailored to your unique symptoms. 

Heart Failure Medications
Your health care professional will prescribe medications to help your heart function at its best as part of your treatment. It’s very important to take these medications as prescribed. Several classes of drugs each have a separate but important job in managing the symptoms of heart failure. You must take your medicines as prescribed by your doctor. Do not stop taking your medications without consulting your doctor. 

Devices and Surgical Procedures
Defibrillators, pacemakers and LVADs (Left Ventricular Assist Devices) are medical devices used to manage irregular heart rhythms. You and your doctor will decide together whether to place one of these devices. Certain devices are better suited to certain cases and stages of heart failure. Surgical procedures include heart transplants, angioplasty, coronary artery bypass and valve replacement. 

Complementary and Alternative Medicine 
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices fall outside traditional medicine. These therapies must be discussed with your doctor to avoid the risk of adverse drug interactions and harmful side effects. 

Mind-body medicine also falls under the CAM heading. It includes practices such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, relaxation, hypnosis, spirituality and more. Studies show that patients who participated in yoga, combined with standard medical therapy, showed improvements in exercise tolerance, had an improved quality of life and reduced inflammation. Be sure to talk to your doctor before undertaking any new activity. 

Be Involved in Your Care

Living well with heart failure depends on your willingness to be involved in your care. Your new normal can feel overwhelming and scary, but lean on your support system and your health care team to navigate these unfamiliar waters. Ask questions if you don’t understand something. Take an active role in your care, and you will feel empowered to make the changes you need to live successfully with heart failure.