Over 26 million people around the globe live with heart failure.
In these individuals, the heart isn’t pumping as well as it should be. Going to the grocery store, exercising, and walking up the stairs can become extremely difficult for individuals living with heart failure.
While there are complications that come along with the diagnosis, having heart failure doesn’t automatically take you off the list for being able to live a good life. There will need to be adjustments made, but it is possible to adjust to the new normal.
Are you unsure of how to define the new normal? Keep reading below to learn more about living with heart failure.
What is Heart Failure?
A healthy heart continuously works to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body. The heart has 4 different chambers, and they all work together to keep the heart in a beat.
When someone is living with heart failure, their heart can’t keep up with all the work that needs to be done. It isn’t pumping blood and oxygen as it should.
The heart and body can try to make up for it in a variety of ways, but most fixes the body puts into place only act as a temporary fix.
The heart might enlarge, pump significantly faster, or put on muscle mass. The body might even start diverting blood away from organs, such as the kidneys, to the brain or heart. Blood vessels in the body may even start becoming narrower to help with keeping the blood pressure where it needs to be.
What Parts of Life Are Affected by Heart Failure?
Heart failure can have a number of effects on your daily life. Understanding the effects can help you make adjustments to increase your quality of life. Do know that living with heart failure can still mean a good life.
If diagnosed, you’ll start noticing shortness of breath and fatigue. This can hinder you from highly physical activities such as weightlifting, running, or carrying out a job that requires you constantly being active.
You may also notice irregular heartbeats, a decrease in appetite, difficulty in concentrating on tasks. All of this can cause a strain on your physical and mental wellbeing so it’s important to also seek a counselor if needed.
How to Improve Quality of Life while Living with Heart Failure
One of the most important steps to improving your quality of life is building a team of doctors you can trust. It’s crucial to be involved with a medical team that listens to your concerns and guides you in an effective, personal way.
Along with this, once they inform you on steps to take, follow their advice. Take all the medications prescribed to you and listen to any other guidelines they may have.
It can be difficult remembering to take your medicine, but it’s crucial when living with heart failure. The mixture of medicines they give you can do things like decrease swelling, relax your vessels, slow your rapid heartbeat, and strengthen your heart.
To also improve your health, it’s also important you remember to keep exercising. It’s okay that you aren’t able to do what you could in the past. Take it slow, and set goals for yourself.
Because you won’t feel as hungry, you still need to make sure you’re getting the vitamins and nutrients necessary for good health. Ask your doctors what sorts of vitamin supplements or foods to look into when grocery shopping.
As your body goes through changes, keep in tune with your body. Track any sudden changes in a journal or notes on your phone. Bring them up to your doctor.
Changes may seem insignificant to you, but they could be valuable information to a medical professional. If the change appears to be something serious, not just something like a slight swelling at the ankles, seek medical attention.
What About My Mental Health?
Any major diagnosis in life comes with a heavy mental weight. You may start feeling defeated, afraid, nervous, or like your life is defined by the heart failure.
Know that you are not defined by your diagnosis. While you will need to make necessary adjustments to your life, you can still live a full life surrounded by the people and things you love.
If you ever start feeling overwhelmed or sad, make sure you have people you can talk to. Whether it’s a parent, a best friend, or a licensed therapist, don’t be afraid to open up about your struggles. It can be a scary process to go through.
Seek the appropriate help or medical attention if you start experiencing suicidal thoughts, extreme panic attacks, or any major depressive episodes. Putting yourself first is perfectly fine.
Many people living with heart failure find relief in activities such as journaling, exploring their creative side, going for short walks in nature, or group therapy.
Can I Trust My Device?
Many people have a tough time trusting their ICD if they have one. It can seem bizarre trusting a small piece of technology to help keep your heart pumping.
Voice any and all questions and concerns to your medical team. They are there to help provide you with resources for your health.
Regularly check-in with your doctor. They may want to give everything a listen or might need to warn you that your device’s batteries need to be changed.
Make sure you always inform any nurse or doctor you are seeing that you have a device. You’ll also need to inform the airport screening staff you have a device if you are traveling.
Living a Full Life with Heart Failure
It can be scary to hear you have heart failure. Just know that living with heart failure doesn’t mean you can’t live a good life. It means you’ll just need to take the steps necessary to keep you healthy.
Make sure you are on good terms with your medical team because they are there to help and guide you. Check-in with your mental health and seek help if needed.
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