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Heart failure - what to ask your doctor

  • Definition
    • Your heart is a pump that moves blood through your body. Heart failure occurs when blood does not move well and fluid builds up in places in your body that it should not. Most often, fluid collects in your lungs and legs. Heart failure most often occurs because your heart muscle is weak. However, it can happen for other reasons as well.

      Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your heart failure.

  • Alternative Names
    • What to ask your doctor about heart failure; HF - what to ask your doctor

  • Questions
    • What kinds of heath checks do I need to do at home and how do I do them?

      • How do I check my pulse and blood pressure?
      • How should I check my weight?
      • When should I do these checks?
      • What supplies do I need?
      • How should I keep track of my blood pressure, weight, and pulse?

      What are the signs and symptoms that my heart failure is getting worse? Will I always have the same symptoms?

      • What should I do if my weight goes up? If my legs swell up? If I feel more short of breath? If my clothes feel tight?
      • What are the signs and symptoms that I am having angina or a heart attack?
      • When should I call the doctor? When should I call 911?

      What medicines am I taking to treat heart failure?

      • Do they have any side effects?
      • What should I do if I miss a dose?
      • Is it ever safe to stop taking any of these medicines on my own?
      • What over-the-counter medicines are NOT compatible with my regular medicines?

      How much activity or exercise can I do?

      • Which activities are better to start with?
      • Are there activities or exercises that are not safe for me?
      • Is it safe for me to exercise on my own?

      Do I need to go to a cardiac rehabilitation program?

      Are there limits on what I can do at work?

      What should I do if I feel sad or very worried about my heart disease?

      How can I change the way I live to make my heart stronger?

      • How much water or fluid can I drink every day? How much salt can I eat? What are other types of seasoning I can use instead of salt?
      • What is a heart-healthy diet? Is it ever ok to eat something that is not heart-healthy? What are some ways to eat healthy when I go to a restaurant?
      • Is it ok to drink alcohol? How much is ok?
      • Is it ok to be around other people who are smoking?
      • Is my blood pressure normal? What is my cholesterol, and do l need to take medicines for it?
      • Is it ok to be sexually active? Is it safe to use sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), or tadalafil (Cialis) for erection problems?
  • References
    • Rasmusson K, Flattery M, Baas LS. American association of heart failure nurses position paper on educating patients with heart failure. Heart Lung. 2015 Mar-Apr;44(2):173-7. PMID: 25649810

      McmurrayJJV, Pfeffer MA. Heart failure. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 59.