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An everyday guide to

living with heart failure

1 About heart failure
Acknowledgements Contents

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) would How to use this guide 2

like to thank all the heart failure patients,
nurse specialists, consultant cardiologists About heart failure

2 The symptoms and

and researchers who have helped to develop

how to control them

this resource. What is heart failure? 5
What causes heart failure? Can it be cured? 6
Special thanks are due to: How bad is my heart failure? Will it get worse? 7
c olleagues from the BHF Care and Education Questions and answers 8

Research Group and the Department of Health
Sciences, University of York, for developing the
The symptoms and how to control them
original BHF Heart Failure Plan, upon which this The symptoms of heart failure 11
guide is based What you can do to control your symptoms 12
Self-management 18
and to the following for their input on this
Managing your medication 19

new edition:

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
Jennifer Barbour Reducing your risk of further problems
BHF Heart Failure Specialist Nurse Controlling your blood pressure 37
NHS Dumfries and Galloway Eating a healthy diet 38
Professor John Cleland Managing your fluid balance 42
Head of Academic Cardiology Unit Stopping smoking 48
University of Hull Limiting your alcohol 49
Tracey Dare Keeping active 50

BHF Heart Failure Specialist Nurse
Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Living with heart failure
Caroline Jones
Looking after yourself at home and at work 61
BHF Heart Failure Specialist Nurse
Getting out and about 63

4 Living with heart failure

North Yorkshire and York PCT
Dealing with stress, worry and anxiety 64
Laura Mackintosh
Managing the changing relationships 74
BHF Palliative Heart Failure Specialist Nurse
Sex 77
NHS Forth Valley
Financial worries 79
Annie McCallum
Facing severe illness 80
Head of Gloucestershire Heart Service
Planning for the future 83

NHS Gloucestershire
National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) Getting help and information
Heart Failure Group.
Talking to your doctor, GP or nurse 91
Help for carers 92
Useful organisations 99

5 Getting help
and information
Useful publications and DVDs 102

What to do in an emergency 104

Index 106

About the British Heart Foundation 108


1 About heart failure

How to use this guide

This guide is for adults of all ages who have If you still have questions after reading About
heart failure
heart failure, and for their families or carers. An everyday guide to living with heart failure:
Being told that you have heart failure can be very T alk to your heart failure specialist doctor
frightening for you and your family. It raises all or nurse, or to your GP, if your questions are
sorts of questions, such as: Why me? What can about your particular condition. They are in the
I do about it? What is my future going to be like? best position to advise you on your symptoms
and treatment.
We have developed An everyday guide to living
Contact the useful organisations and
with heart failure to help you understand and
helplines listed on pages 99-101 for
manage your condition better. We want to show
information and support.
you how to control your symptoms well, so that
See the booklets or DVDs listed on pages
you can have a good quality of life and continue
102-103 for additional information on the
to do many of the things that you enjoy.
things we discuss in the guide.
We have based this guide on advice from
people with heart failure and from medical
and nursing experts on heart failure. Think
of it as a source of practical help and guidance
rather than something that has to be followed
rigidly. Feel free to dip in and out of it in your
own time the index at the back will help you
find what you need.
Your heart failure nurse may work through this
guide with you, or you may use it as a personal
reference guide at home. You may also want to
share it with your carer or family and friends, so
that they understand your condition and know All the information in this guide has
how they can support you. (By carer we mean been checked very carefully, but
the main person who cares for you. It could be
your partner, a relative or a friend.) please check with your own doctors
and heart failure nurses before
In the back pocket you will find a handy pull-out
Personal record. Use this to record your symptoms you do anything different from
and other important information, and take it with the advice they have given you
you to your hospital or GP appointments.
remember that it can be dangerous
to suddenly stop taking medication
if you plan to start doing more
activity or exercise than you are
doing now, make sure you check
this with your doctor or nurse first.

2 British Heart Foundation

What is heart failure?

What is heart failure? 5 Your heart is a powerful muscle that delivers How does my doctor know
blood and oxygen around your body through Ive got heart failure?
a regular pumping action. Heart failure is the
What causes heart failure? Can it be cured? 6 Your doctor can usually work out if you have

2 The symptoms and

term we use to describe a set of symptoms that

how to control them

occur when your heart fails to deliver as much heart failure by talking to you about your
blood and oxygen around your body as it should. symptoms and doing a physical examination.

How bad is my heart failure? Will it get worse? 7 There are many reasons why this may happen,
including weakness and/or stiffness of the heart
The most common symptoms of heart failure are:
s hortness of breath when you are resting
muscle, narrowed or leaking valves and abnormal or doing normal activities
Questions and answers 8 heart rhythms.
The term heart failure sounds pretty frightening,
swelling of the feet, ankles or abdomen
(stomach area)
so it might be more helpful to think of it as: fatigue (which means being unusually
My heart is failing to work properly and needs tired and weak).
medication to support how it works. These symptoms can also be caused by other

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
medical conditions, so in most cases further
tests will be needed to confirm a diagnosis of
heart failure. The most common tests are:
a n electrocardiogram (ECG) to assess your
heart rhythm
a BNP test a blood test which measures
the levels of certain hormones related to
heart failure
a chest x-ray, which shows a picture of your
heart and lungs
an echocardiogram, which allows doctors

4 Living with heart failure

to see how the valves, muscle and pumping
action of your heart are working
My first question to the consultant general blood tests to check, for example,
how well your kidneys are working
was: How long have I got to go? lung function tests to see how well your
He said, No, dont worry its lungs are working.
called heart failure because We say more about symptoms on page 11.
the heart doesnt have the full
capability to pump as much
blood as it should but you
know you shouldnt like think

5 Getting help
and information
about death every day. And I
laughed [with relief] and said,
Fine, okay, Ill manage that.

An everyday guide to living with heart failure 5

What causes heart failure? Can it be cured? How bad is my heart failure? Will it get worse?

Heart failure can be caused by one or more Can heart failure be cured? Doctors divide heart failure into four classes. Will my heart failure get worse as
conditions. The most common causes are:
When heart failure is caused by an underlying
These are sometimes known as the New York time goes by? What is my future like?
Heart Association (NYHA) scores. They are:
heart attack problem that can be treated, such as heart valve Your condition may not necessarily get worse

2 The symptoms and

high blood pressure disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure or Class 1 No symptoms

how to control them

with time. This guide will show you how to
cardiomyopathy (a disease of the severe anaemia, there is a good chance that your Your heart is not working as well as it should, make changes to your lifestyle that will help
heart muscle). heart failure symptoms will go away or be but you may not have any symptoms. You can control your symptoms. It will also show you
reduced, and your heart muscle could return to usually do everything you want to, and may have how you can recognise early on that something
Heart failure can also be caused by:
normal. And with the right treatment and good as much energy as you would expect. You may may have changed. We say more about this
a viral infection affecting the heart management of symptoms you could lead a full still need medication or other treatment to in Self-management on page 18.
muscle and active life. reduce the risk of your condition getting worse.
heart valve problems Very occasionally, some people do have one or Its also encouraging to remember that only
However, in most cases heart failure is caused a few years ago, little could be done if you had
alcohol or recreational drugs two symptoms which will need to be treated
by a heart attack, and currently cannot be cured. heart failure, but now there are many treatments
an uncontrolled irregular heart rate or controlled.
When you have a heart attack often part of your to help you. Treatments are being continually
heart muscle dies. This means that the rest of Class 2 Symptoms on moderate exertion

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
some chemotherapy medication improved and new ones are becoming available
your heart has to work harder, causing the You may not be able to do quite as much as you all of the time.
congenital heart problems (heart
symptoms of heart failure. used to. You get breathless more than usual
problems you are born with) Please discuss any concerns about your
for example, when you are gardening, shopping
thyroid gland disease, or Over recent decades, BHF-funded research has symptoms, treatments or future with your
or doing the housework.
anaemia. contributed to a substantial reduction in the nurse or doctor and ask them to explain your
number of people dying from heart attacks and Class 3 Symptoms on mild exertion management plan to you. They should also
Sometimes we just dont know what the cause
strokes. And through research into the causes of You are quite limited in what you can do. be able to give you an honest view of how
is. This can be hard to accept. But the important
heart and circulatory disease, we have become It doesnt take much effort to make you feel your quality and length of life may be affected.
thing is to control your symptoms well. By doing
better at preventing heart attack victims from exhausted and too breathless to carry on. (See Facing severe illness on page 80.)
so, youll help to prevent them from getting
having another heart attack. But this means that You are usually comfortable while youre resting.
worse and ensure that you have the best Do bear in mind, however, that it isnt possible
more and more people are surviving to live with
possible quality of life. Class 4 Symptoms at rest for them or anyone to tell you exactly how
the often debilitating consequences of their

4 Living with heart failure

You become breathless even when you arent long you will live. They can only say what is
We say more about managing your symptoms disease, in particular heart failure.
being particularly active for example, when likely, or what happens to the average person.
in Section 2, The symptoms and how to control
The next big challenge is to discover how to help walking around at home or even when sitting Heart failure affects people of all ages and
them and Section 3, Reducing your risk of further
the heart repair itself, so that heart failure can be down. You may find it difficult to look after everyone is different. Some people live for
problems. We look at dealing with everyday
cured rather than treated. Our Mending Broken yourself properly on your own for example, you many years with heart failure.
situations in Section 4, Living with heart failure.
Hearts appeal aims to do just that. By raising get too breathless when having a bath or shower.
We discuss the causes and treatments of heart money to fund research into regenerative You may need to sleep sitting up because you get
failure in more detail in our booklet Living with medicine we hope that, in as little as ten years out of breath or cough when you lie down.
heart failure (see page 102 for how to order). time, we will have treatments that will mend
You may find that you dont fit exactly into one
heart muscle that has been damaged by a heart
class of heart failure. Your doctor will be able
attack. We also hope to learn how to mend blood
to tell you more based on your examination

5 Getting help
vessels and repair heart valves, so that heart and
and tests. Whichever stage your heart failure

and information
circulatory disease will no longer be a major
is at, your heart failure nurse and doctor will work
cause of disability in the UK.
out an appropriate management plan for you.
For more information about this research visit This will identify things that they can do and help you to do, to improve your symptoms and try
to stop things getting worse.

6 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 7

Questions and answers
Does having heart failure mean that Is having heart failure just a part The symptoms
and how to
my heart is dead or dying? of getting older?
Heart failure means that your heart is not able Many people put the symptoms of heart failure

2 The symptoms and

how to control them
to deliver as much blood and oxygen to various down to old age and think that nothing can be
parts of your body as it used to. It does not mean
that your heart is dead or dying but that it is not
working as well as it should be. This may be
done about them. Its true that heart failure is
more common in older people, because as we
get older we are more likely to have one of the
control them
because of damage to your heart muscle caused conditions that cause it. However, heart failure
by a heart attack, because of problems with your is not an inevitable part of getting older. About
heart valves, or for other reasons. Medication and one in ten of us will get it, and it can happen at
other treatment can help to control and improve any age. Sometimes it happens to young adults,
your symptoms. or to children with congenital heart disease.
No matter how old you are, its vital that you learn
What does my ejection fraction mean?

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
to actively manage your symptoms and do what
Your doctor may have told you about the ejection you can to keep your condition under control.
fraction of your left ventricle in your heart. The
ejection fraction is the amount of blood that is
pushed out of the left ventricle every time the
heart beats. It is usually expressed as a
percentage (%).
No-one has an ejection fraction of 100% as there I felt devastated because I had
is always some blood left in the left ventricle after given birth to my first child five
each heartbeat. A normal ejection fraction is
around 50-65%. An ejection fraction below 40%
weeks beforehand and I didnt
know whether I would still be

4 Living with heart failure

is abnormal but may not be associated with any
symptoms to suggest heart failure. On the other alive to look after him and watch
hand, some people with heart failure have a him grow upThe fact that my
normal ejection fraction. So, ejection fraction
is used alongside other tests to help to diagnose
[symptoms] can improve over
heart failure. time was very helpful as it gave me
hope and something to focus on.

5 Getting help
and information
8 British Heart Foundation
The symptoms of heart failure

The symptoms of heart failure 11 What are the most common symptoms Its not a tired tired where you
of heart failure? want to go to bed and sleep, its
a weary tired as if everything is
What you can do to control your symptoms 12 The main symptoms are:
an effort I cant say its a go
s hortness of breath when you are resting
or being active to sleep tired. I dont really know,
Self-management 18 swelling of your feet, ankles or abdomen
(stomach area)
its just an I must sit down tired,
I just cant take another step tired.
fatigue (feeling unusually tired or weak).
Managing your medication 19 What causes these symptoms? I initially suffered from breathlessness,
fatigue, panic attacks, waking
The symptoms happen because your heart
muscle has become stiff or weak and stretched,
at night feeling I couldnt breathe
and these changes have affected the pressure etc. These have lessened now that

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
inside the heart. the fluid is under control but I still
The poor pumping action of the heart can cause get tired and there is a limit to my
a build-up of blood to your lungs and other physical activity.
parts of your body. Its a bit like a traffic jam.
It is even called congestion. You may have heard
your doctors calling it congestive heart failure.
Initially the breathlessness was the
thing that got to me most. After a
Your blood carries oxygen, salt, water and
other nutrients to all parts of your body and
long uncertain journey, life got back
takes away all the waste products. When there to a manageable course. I could not
is congestion, the blood doesnt do this as have imagined four years ago that

4 Living with heart failure

well and some parts of your body dont work I could breathe so well again.
as well as they used to. Your heart works harder
to try to clear the problem, but is not able to.
This congestion can cause swelling in your
ankles, in the small of your back (oedema)
or in your abdomen (ascites). If the congestion
is in your lungs (pulmonary oedema) it can lead
to severe shortness of breath. If your muscles
are affected, this can cause unusual tiredness
and weakness, which is called fatigue. Your
doctor may also say that you have either left

5 Getting help
or right heart failure, which describes which

and information
part of your heart is most affected.

An everyday guide to living with heart failure 11

What you can do to control your symptoms

Controlling your symptoms is an important part

of treating heart failure. On the following pages,
tick all the symptoms you get. Share this section
with your carer or family so that they know what
to do if your symptoms get worse, of if you get
new ones.

If you have any of these symptoms your symptoms can be controlled like this
Swelling of your feet, ankles or abdomen Manage your medication
Your kidneys have the job of keeping the right balance of water, salt and potassium There are a number of medications that can reduce congestion, control your
in your body. If your heart is not pumping enough blood through them, the kidneys symptoms and help strengthen your heart. See pages 19-34.
cant get rid of any extra water and salt (which you usually pass in the form of urine).
This extra water can build up in different parts of your body, causing it to swell. Live a healthy lifestyle and keep active

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
A build-up of water can make your weight go up by several pounds in just a few All the symptoms we have described could be caused by congestion, which we
days. See pages 42-47. described on page 11. You can reduce your risk of congestion by:
being careful how much liquid you drink, especially if you have been advised
Sudden weight gain
to restrict your fluids. See page 46.
If you put on weight over 2-5 days, it is probably caused by fluid congestion.
An extra 2-3 pounds (1-2 kilos) can mean that your body is holding on to an extra reducing the amount of salt in your diet. See page 42.
1 litre of fluid. However, if you put on weight over a period of several weeks, it is
keeping a record of your weight. See page 47.
more likely to be caused by an increase in body mass (muscle or fat).
eating a healthy diet to control your weight. See page 38.
Feeling breathless, wheezing or coughing
including physical activity in your everyday plan. See page 50.
These problems are also caused by congestion and can happen when there is a

4 Living with heart failure

build-up of fluid in the lungs. You may find that youre more out of breath when stopping smoking. See page 48.
youre doing activities such as walking or going upstairs. You may also find it difficult
to lie flat. Learn to deal with stress and worry
Symptoms can be made worse by worry, anxiety and stress. It may help if you learn
Being out of breath can be a very frightening and unpleasant experience. Being
how to do relaxation or relaxation exercises. See page 68.
frightened and anxious can make you feel worse and even more out of breath.

Fatigue (feeling unusually tired and weak)

Fatigue is very common in any long-term illness. It can be caused by your muscles
not getting enough oxygen, or because you are not sleeping properly or not getting
enough exercise. Or it could be a side effect of your medication.
If any of these symptoms are new, you If the symptoms are very bad and you

5 Getting help
should call and speak to your heart are frightened, or if they suddenly get

and information
failure nurse or doctor or your GP. worse, phone 999 for an ambulance.

12 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 13

If you have this symptom heres what you should do: Getting good support and coming to terms with
changes in your life will help you to feel calmer
A heavy pressure across your chest, and more in control. If you are having difficulties
or chest pain, or both with this for more than a few weeks, talk to your
nurse as there are people who can help you to
This is called angina. It may be caused by too If this is the first time you have experienced
deal with your emotions.
little blood and oxygen getting to your heart chest pain, call 999 immediately as you may
muscle. be having a heart attack. See page 104 for Your doctor or GP may also suggest some
information about what to do if you think you medication to help your feelings of anxiety or
are having a heart attack. depression. See Dealing with stress, worry and
anxiety on page 64.
If you know you have coronary heart disease and
Good days and bad days
you have been prescribed medication such as
GTN (glyceryl trinitrate), take your medication You might feel full of beans one day and terrible Look at the overactivity-rest cycle on page 52.
as prescribed and follow the steps on page 104. the next. It could just be the way your illness Try to adjust what you do each day to keep your
makes you feel, or because youve overdone symptoms stable.
Remember, if your chest pain does not go away
things one day and have exhausted yourself.
after taking your GTN medication the second
time, call 999 for an ambulance as you may be
having a heart attack. Light-headedness or dizziness

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
In some conditions, such as cardiomyopathy, This is quite common in people with heart If the light-headedness or dizziness is a
the pain may occur for other reasons. Your failure. It can be caused by not enough oxygen new symptom, contact your nurse or doctor
doctor will have told you how to deal with getting to your brain. immediately. This may be particularly
these symptoms. important if you have cardiomyopathy.
Other possible causes are:
(See our booklets on cardiomyopathy in our
Inherited heart conditions series, listed on
Blackouts (syncope)
page 103.)
Call 999 for an ambulance. Tell your carer, family
a side effect of the medication you are taking Ask your doctor or nurse if the light-headedness
or friends that they must call 999 immediately if
or dizziness could be caused by your medication.
you should ever have a blackout.
They may be able to lower the dose or change
your medication to reduce the symptoms.

4 Living with heart failure

Feeling helpless or fed-up
anxiety Try some relaxation techniques if you are
You may feel Look at the support system that you have and anxious. See page 68.
that you have little control over your life and see what changes you can make. For example,
arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) Your doctor can do an ECG to check your heart
that your illness has taken over do you need:
for an abnormal rhythm.
powerless to change your situation more help in the house
uncertain about the future or even how you help with looking after your family or children getting up too quickly Take your time getting up from a chair or from
will feel the next day. financial support low blood pressure your bed. Dont get up suddenly.
to look at your commitments be realistic
 ot drinking enough fluid and becoming Make sure that you are drinking enough. If
about how much you can juggle
dehydrated. you feel thirsty all the time, talk to your doctor
to change the way you do something (for
about any diuretics (water tablets) you have
example, make adjustments to the type of

5 Getting help
been prescribed. Or you may need to review

and information
work you do) you dont always have to give
your fluid allowance.
up your activities or work
someone to talk to a family member, friend
or professional
to make some changes to your lifestyle?

14 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 15

If you have this symptom heres what you should do: You may also find it difficult to sleep well because Make sure that you have enough pillows to
you cough if you lie down support you in a comfortable position.
Memory problems or problems with you have to go to the toilet frequently
If you suffer from a cough or going to the toilet
concentration in the night.
frequently during the night, ask your doctor if
You may find that youre forgetting things, Try writing things down and re-reading any your medication may be causing the problem.
having trouble concentrating, or have short-term information you need to remember a few times.
memory problems. This is very common and can
Use a diary or a calendar and write in it every Problems keeping sexually active
happen when not enough oxygen is getting to
day for example, important events, meetings,
your brain. It can also be caused by stress or Sex may be the last thing on your mind. Talk to your partner about how you feel. You
birthdays, doctors appointments and so on.
worry, and it can be made worse by some of the You might not have the energy for it. Your might find it hard at first but they will want
Check it every morning.
medication you are taking. medication may have had an effect on your whats best for you. You can have an active sex
Ask a family member or friend to remind sex life or desire for it. life even if youre not feeling ready for sexual
you about things like hospital appointments. intercourse. Your nurse or doctor will be able
Worry, anxiety or depression can also cause
to discuss these issues with you and/or your
Use a dosette box for your medication and a lack of interest in sex.
see our tips on page 34. Many pharmacists
will arrange for your medication to be supplied See Sex on page 77.
in dosette boxes. Most boxes now come marked
with the day that you should take them. Use
Slow weight gain (over 3-6 months)
the medication chart in the Personal record to

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
help you. Your weight may go up slowly because you are Make sure that you are eating a healthy diet and
not being very physically active, but still eating not snacking on unhealthy food. Healthy food
Ask your doctor if the problem could be a side
the same amount of food. has calories too, so try cutting down on your
effect of any of the medication you are taking.
portion size.
If so, ask if there is something else you can
take instead. Being overweight can make it difficult for you to Ask your nurse or doctor for further information
keep fit and active. It will also make your heart and support. They may be able to refer you
work harder, and can make your symptoms to a dietitian for more help. If you dont do
worse. the cooking in your house, ask the person
Palpitation is a word used to describe the feeling If you only get palpitations when youre who does to go with you.
you get when you are aware of your heartbeat. feeling anxious, try the breathing and relaxation
The heart may be beating at a normal rate, exercises on pages 68-69.
Slow weight loss

4 Living with heart failure

quickly, slowly or irregularly, or it may feel as
If you get palpitations even when you are not
if it is missing beats. Your weight may go down because your Tell your doctor about any slow weight loss.
anxious, you should talk to your nurse or doctor.
appetite is poor and you are not eating enough. He/she will refer you to a dietitian who will help
Palpitation can often be due to stress or anxiety.
you to manage the problem with a high-calorie
It may also be an arrhythmia (abnormal heart Your heart condition might make it difficult for
diet and food supplements. If you dont do the
rhythm). you to absorb nutrients, and that could be
cooking and shopping, take the person who
another reason for weight loss.
does with you to see the dietitian.
Poor sleep Weight loss can also be a symptom of
The most common reasons for poor sleep are:
a lack of activity during the day Include a walk in the fresh air every day.
worry, anxiety or depression. Have a milky drink before bedtime.

5 Getting help

and information
A warm bath with a few drops of lavender
oil, or putting lavender oil on your pillow,
can sometimes help you to relax and drop If any of these symptoms are new, you If the symptoms are very bad and you
off to sleep. should call and speak to your heart are frightened, or if they suddenly get
Try the relaxation techniques on pages 68-69 failure nurse or doctor or your GP. worse, phone 999 for an ambulance.
when you are in bed.

16 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 17

Self-management Managing your medication

Understanding your condition and being Managing your medication (page 19) In order to treat your heart failure and keep If you have any old medications, return them to
in control of your symptoms will help you it under control, you may have to take a your pharmacist who will dispose of them safely.
Reducing your risk of further problems
to feel more in charge. This is what we mean combination of many different medications. This will help you to stay on top of exactly what
(pages 37-51) this includes advice on:
by self-management. Many people have told us that one of the you need to take and avoid confusion.
Controlling your blood pressure hardest things about living with heart
Self-management involves: In the next few pages we look at three steps
failure is keeping track of what their different
Eating a healthy diet to organise your routine:
learning to recognise your symptoms medications are for and taking them properly.
thinking about what you normally do when Managing your fluid balance
you get these symptoms, knowing what
Stopping smoking
Your doctor may need to change the dose 1 Keep track of the
works and why of your medication or give you a different
knowing when to seek help Limiting your alcohol one from time to time, depending on your
medications you are taking
thinking about problems that stop you condition and symptoms.
Keeping active
managing your symptoms for example,
Taking the right medication properly:
2 Understand what your
lack of knowledge or physical ability Dealing with stress, worry and anxiety
learning to recognise any changes in (page 64) w ill help to control the symptoms of your
medications are for

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
your symptoms heart failure
Managing the changing relationships
always talking to your doctor or nurse if you
(page 74)
can help to treat the cause of your heart failure 3 Take your medications
experience a symptom for the first time, or will treat other conditions you may have,
if what you are doing does not work. Facing severe illness (page 80) such as diabetes or arthritis.
Not everyone will feel overwhelmed by their Getting help and information (pages 91-105). It is important that you, your doctor and
diagnosis. But if you are, it may be easier to nurse know all the medication you are taking
Your doctor or heart failure nurse will be able
try tackling adjustments to your lifestyle one including the name, dose and frequency
at a time. We suggest that you choose an action
to help you understand what is safe for you
to do yourself, and when you should ask for
and any changes to your prescription. Never take medication that has
at a time from the list on the right and do it for
help. Ask them to explain anything that you been prescribed for someone else. Even
one week. Start with the one you most want if you think it is the same, the dose may
dont understand about your condition, or see
help with.

4 Living with heart failure

our booklet Living with heart failure for more be different. Remember never to run
information. Also, talk to your family and friends out of your medication.
they may be able to help you stay on track.

5 Getting help
and information
18 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 19
I am taking: This is a: I need to read page:
Atenolol Beta-blocker 26
1 Keep track of the Here we have listed the most common types of Carvedilol
medications you are taking medications that are used in treating heart failure
and where you will find more information about Metoprolol
them. You can use the Personal record at the back Nebivolol
to note down which ones youre taking.
You may also be prescribed medications for other
conditions that you may have, that are not listed Eplerenone Aldosterone antagonist 27
below. It is important that you record these in the
Personal record too. Spironolactone

Digoxin Cardiac glycoside 28

I am taking: This is a: I need to read page:
Amiloride Diuretic (water pill) 23 Aspirin Antiplatelet 29

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
B Clopidogrel
Atorvastatin Statin or fibrate 30
Bumetanide (cholesterol-lowering drugs)
Furosemide (Frusemide)
Captopril ACE inhibitor 24

4 Living with heart failure

Warfarin Anticoagulant 31
Enalapril GTN spray Nitrate 32
Lisinopril Nitroglycerin tablets
Perindopril Isosorbide dinitrate
Ramipril Isosorbide mononitrate
Trandolapril Hydralazine Vasodilator 32
Candesartan Angiotensin-II receptor 25 Kay-Cee-L Potassium chloride 33

5 Getting help

and information
Losartan Sando-K

20 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 21

2 Understand what your Important Diuretics What else do I need to know?
medications are for Always read the information leaflet Amiloride, Bendrofluazide Diuretics can alter the balance of water, salts
that comes with your medication. (Bendroflumethiazide), Bumetanide, and minerals in your body because they make
Most types of heart failure medication will help Chloralidone, Furosemide (Frusemide), you pass a lot of urine. They are normally taken
to reduce the workload of your heart and help
The information we provide here does Metolazone, Torasemide in the morning, but think about when it might
to control any symptoms that you may have. not replace those information leaflets. be best for you to take them and ask your doctor
At the start of your treatment, your doctor may Some manufacturers use different What are they for? or nurse about it.
frequently make changes to your medication packaging and names for the same If you have heart failure you should already be
and doses. This can be unsettling, but its Diuretics are sometimes called water tablets.
medication. If the packaging is different on a low-salt diet (we say more about this on
necessary for making sure that youre taking They help your kidneys get rid of excess fluid
to what you normally get and you are by making you pass more urine. They can: page 42). Having too much salt will counteract
the appropriate amount of each medication to
control your symptoms. Here we explain what
not sure it is the right medication, the effects of the diuretics. Its also important
reduce swelling to avoid using salt substitutes as these contain
the different types of medication do, and some check with your pharmacist.
relieve shortness of breath potassium which may have an effect on your
common side effects.
Side effects lower blood pressure blood test results.

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
Not everyone will experience side effects and help ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers
Tell your doctor about any side If conditions are hot or warm, or if you
some may have very few. Some side effects (two other types of drugs) to work better.
effects that you may get, especially experience any diarrhoea, early signs of weight
are temporary and will go away after you have
taken the medication for a while, and others may
if you notice them for the first time. What are the main side effects? loss, increased thirst, dizziness and/or increased
Side effects may be very unpleasant, fatigue, make sure that you are drinking enough
be because you are taking several medications
but never stop taking your medication G oing to the toilet more during the day fluid. Dehydration is common in patients taking
together. Your doctor may be able to adjust the
and possibly at night water tablets. If your fluid intake is restricted or
dosage or change to a different medication to without first consulting your doctor Dizziness or light-headedness if you are unsure about your symptoms, speak
reduce your side effects. Or he/she may decide doing so may make your symptoms Gout (a condition where uric acid and salts to your doctor or nurse.
that its important for you to continue taking much worse. build up in the joints, causing pain). Diuretics
the medication and will prescribe another one
may cause gout or, if you already have gout,
to help you to deal with the side effects. Alternative/complementary make it worse. But gout can be treated.

4 Living with heart failure

Alternative/complementary medicines Which side effects should I tell my
such as homeopathic or herbal
remedies, and food supplements such
doctor or nurse about? Important
Any difficulty passing urine Do you get breathless, or do you
as vitamins and minerals, may interact Passing much less urine than normal
with the medication you have been get swelling of your feet, ankles or
prescribed. Talk to your doctor before Dizziness or light-headedness
stomach? If so, and you are not taking
taking any of these medicines (if its a new symptom). a diuretic, ask your doctor or nurse if
or supplements. you need to.
What checks do I need?

5 Getting help
Diuretics may raise your blood sugar.

and information
You should have a blood test every six months If you have diabetes, this could cause
to check that your kidneys are working properly.
problems, so speak to your doctor
Some people may have to have more frequent
checks depending on their condition, or if their about this.
medication has changed.

22 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 23

ACE inhibitors What checks do I need? Angiotensin-II receptor What checks do I need?
Captopril, Cilazapril, Enalapril, Lisinopril, You should have a blood test every six months antagonists You should have a blood test every six months
Perindopril, Ramipril, Trandolapril to check your kidneys are working properly and to check your kidneys are working properly
Candesartan, Irbesartan, Losartan, Valsartan
to make sure that you dont have too much and to make sure that you dont have too much
What are they for? potassium in your blood.
What are they for?
potassium in your blood.

ACE inhibitors lighten the workload of your heart

and make it easier for your heart to pump blood
What else do I need to know? These medications relax the blood vessels What else do I need to know?
to allow the blood to flow easily, reducing
around your body. They can prevent your heart ACE inhibitors can lower your blood pressure These medications are similar to ACE inhibitors.
the workload of your heart. They will reduce
failure from getting worse and can also: dramatically, so you may be given your first Your doctor may give them to you if you develop
your blood pressure and your risk of having
dose under the supervision of your heart side effects such as a persistent cough from
help you to live longer a heart attack.
specialist or even in hospital. If you tend taking an ACE inhibitor.
help protect you from having a heart attack by
to feel dizzy when you stand up, try to avoid
improving the blood flow to your heart muscle
getting up too quickly. What are the main side effects? Avoid taking salt substitutes (as most contain
help you be more active. potassium), and you should not take potassium

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
Make sure you are on a low-salt diet Dizziness supplements.
A decrease in blood pressure
What are the main side effects? (see page 42). Avoid taking salt substitutes
(as most contain potassium), and you should
Irritating cough not take potassium supplements.
Dizziness. Which side effects should I tell my
doctor or nurse about?
Which side effects should I tell my
If any of these side effects becomes severe,
doctor or nurse about? contact your doctor or nurse immediately:
Irritating cough.
If you get any of these side effects, call your Vomiting

4 Living with heart failure

doctor or go to an A&E department immediately: Skin rash
Stomach pains
Swollen face, lips or mouth If you have heart failure, you should be Trouble breathing or swallowing.
A severe rash or itching
taking ACE inhibitors unless you cant
Sudden wheeziness or problems
with breathing. take them for some reason. If you cant
take ACE inhibitors, there are other
medications you may be able to take
instead. Discuss this with your doctor
or nurse.

5 Getting help
and information
24 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 25
Beta-blockers What else do I need to know? Aldosterone antagonists Whats the down side?
Atenolol, Bisoprolol, Carvedilol, Metoprolol, You will be prescribed a low dose of beta-blocker Eplerenone, Spironolactone In some people, these drugs can affect the
Nebivolol, Propranolol to begin with. It may have to be increased slowly kidney function.
until the right dose is reached. It can take a few What are they for? Spironolactone can cause some men to develop
What are they for? weeks or months to experience the benefits of
These medications have a mild diuretic effect tender and slightly enlarged breasts, testicular
taking beta-blockers and you may even feel that
Beta-blockers help to prevent the heart from (which means that they help you to get rid of shrinkage and impotence. Eplerenone is free of
your symptoms are getting worse to begin with.
beating too quickly and too forcefully. They can: excess fluid by passing more urine). They help these feminising side effects.
But in the long term, taking beta-blockers helps
to reduce the risk of your condition to control the potassium levels in your blood and
increase the amount of blood your heart
pumps out getting worse. are often prescribed along with other diuretics to What checks do I need?
help improve your symptoms.
control heart rhythm problems Other medication, such as diuretics, may also You will need blood tests every one to four
increase your chances of living longer. need to be changed when you start taking weeks to begin with, and then once every
What are the main side effects? three to six months.
What are the main side effects? Diarrhoea

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
If you have diabetes, taking beta-blockers can
Tender and slightly enlarged breasts in men
T iredness, usually only for the first few days of affect the way that you feel if you have low blood
starting this medication or increasing its dose sugar. You may need to check your blood sugar
Reduced kidney function.
Mood swings when you first start taking more frequently when you first start taking
the beta-blockers beta-blockers.
Disturbed sleep Which side effects should I tell my
If you have asthma, you may not be able to
Cold hands and feet
take beta-blockers, as they may make your
doctor or nurse about?
asthma worse. Check with your doctor before Passing less water than usual
taking them. Tender and slightly enlarged breasts in men.
If you have psoriasis, beta-blockers may
make this skin condition worse. If you get this side effect, report it to your doctor

4 Living with heart failure

Which side effects should I tell my Diarrhoea.
doctor or nurse about?
Shortness of breath
Extreme dizziness or fainting. Important
What checks do I need? You should not stop taking your
beta-blockers suddenly without
You will need to have your blood pressure speaking to your doctor, as it can
checked regularly. Your nurse or doctor will tell
you how often you need to do this either by
make your condition and symptoms
much worse.

5 Getting help
yourself at home, or by the nurse.

and information
26 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 27
Digoxin What checks do I need? Antiplatelets Which side effects should I tell my
You will have a blood test to check your Digoxin Aspirin, Clopidogrel
doctor or nurse about?
What is it for? level at regular intervals as required to ensure Skin rash
your dose is effective but does not cause side
Digoxin slows down and strengthens your
effects. This test is done six hours after taking
What are they for? Any signs of stomach bleeding.
heartbeat. It can:
your dose. Antiplatelet drugs help to: If you get any of the following side effects,
control irregular heart rhythms report them immediately:
help your heart pump blood around your make the blood less sticky
body more efficiently.
What else do I need to know? reduce the risk of clots forming Swelling of the face or eyelids
reduce the risk of having a heart attack Difficulty breathing
You may not be prescribed digoxin if you
or stroke An asthma attack.
What are the main side effects? have a very slow heart rate or if you suffer
reduce your symptoms.
from heart block.
Nausea and vomiting What else do I need to know?
You should not take an antacid (to settle
Diarrhoea or constipation
heartburn or an upset stomach) or a fibre
What are the main side effects? If you are prescribed aspirin, you will normally
Dizziness or light-headedness

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
supplement within two hours of taking Indigestion have to take it for the rest of your life. If your
your digoxin. Nausea doctor prescribes both aspirin and warfarin for
Vomiting you, dont take extra aspirin as a painkiller in
Disturbed vision
Aspirin may worsen heart failure symptoms between doses.
A slower or an irregular heartbeat
Enlarged breasts in men. patients with severe symptoms of heart Anti-inflammatory medication (such as those
failure should discuss the need for aspirin with taken for arthritis) can also reduce the
The side effects are usually caused by the blood their doctor. effectiveness of aspirin.
levels of digoxin being too high. Your doctor
may reduce your dose and this will normally If you are prescribed aspirin, you are less likely to Aspirin may not be suitable for you if you
result in the side effects disappearing. experience some of these side effects if you take have asthma.
enteric-coated aspirin (a preparation of aspirin
with a special coating), or if you take antiplatelets Always try and take your antiplatelet with
Which side effects should I tell my

4 Living with heart failure

with food. or after food.
doctor or nurse about?
Disturbed vision
Poor appetite (if its a new symptom).

5 Getting help
and information
28 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 29
Statins and fibrates What else do I need to know? Anticoagulants What else do I need to know?
(cholesterol-lowering drugs) Unless you have been told otherwise, Warfarin You need to carry an anticoagulant card with
Statins: Atorvastatin, Fluvastatin, you will need to take your statin at night. you at all times. This records your blood tests
Pravastatin, Rosuvastatin, Simvastatin What is it for? and how much warfarin you are taking. You
If you are taking simvastatin, you should avoid
Fibrates: Bezafibrate, Clofibrate should also have a medic alert bracelet or tag.
eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice. Warfarin prevents clots from forming in your
If youre taking atorvastatin, you can have small bloodstream and reduces your risk of having Always tell a dentist or doctor that you are
What are they for? amounts of grapefruit and grapefruit juice, a heart attack or stroke. taking warfarin.
although some people prefer not to have
Statins and fibrates lower the level of cholesterol If you have an abnormal heart rhythm problem Ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking
any at all.
in your blood. They can: such as atrial fibrillation, you are likely to be any other medication as some medication can
Some antibiotics such as erythromycin are prescribed warfarin. This is because atrial affect the way that warfarin works.
reduce your risk of a heart attack and stroke.
affected by statins, so your doctor will probably fibrillation increases the risk of having a stroke. You should avoid cranberry juice if you
tell you to stop taking the statin while you are
What are the main side effects? taking antibiotics.
take warfarin.
What side effects should I tell my

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
Stomach upsets If you drink alcohol, avoid excessive amounts
doctor or nurse about? or binge drinking as this will affect the way
Diarrhoea If you get any of the following signs of unusual that warfarin works. Ask the nurse at the
Constipation bruising or bleeding, report them immediately: anticoagulation clinic how much is safe for
Muscle cramps and weakness (rare). you to drink.
Prolonged bleeding from cuts
Bleeding that does not stop by itself
Which side effects should I tell my Nose bleeds that last for more than
doctor or nurse about?
If you have any signs of unusual muscle pain,
a few minutes
Bleeding gums Important
Severe bruising
cramps or weakness, tell your doctor or nurse
Red or dark brown urine
If you notice any signs of unusual

4 Living with heart failure

immediately. bruising or bleeding, tell your doctor
Red or black stools
For women, heavier bleeding during or nurse immediately.
What checks do I need? periods, or other vaginal bleeding.
Your doctor will do a blood test to check your
cholesterol levels after three months, and then What checks do I need?
probably once a year. They will also do a blood
You will need to have regular blood tests to check
test to check your liver function.
how much warfarin you need. These are normally
done at your doctors surgery or at an
anticoagulation clinic at a hospital.

5 Getting help
and information
30 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 31
Nitrates What else should I know? Potassium chloride 3 Take your medications
GTN spray, nitroglycerin tablets, Oral nitrates: Sometimes isosorbide dinitrate is used with Kay-Cee-L, Slow-K, Sando-K properly
Isosorbide mononitrate, isosorbide dinitrate another medication called hydralazine.
Hydralazine is a vasodilator that lowers the What is it for? In order to keep your condition and symptoms
This section also contains information on under control, its important to take each
blood pressure and therefore reduces the Potassium is one of the minerals that your body
a vasodilator called hydralazine. medication youve been prescribed at the
workload of the heart. If you cannot take other needs. It is important that you have the right
medication such as an ACE inhibitor, your doctor right time. However, it can be overwhelming
amount of potassium in your blood as too little
What are they used for? may prescribe a combination of isosorbide and or too much can lead to serious arrhythmias.
if youre having to take many medications at
hydralazine instead. When taking hydralazine, different times.
Nitrates are vasodilators (they relax the muscle When you are taking a diuretic, sometimes your
in the blood vessel walls, making them widen you might possibly experience side effects such body loses too much potassium. Potassium
and increasing the flow of blood). They are often as headache, rapid heartbeat, fever and blood chloride helps to prevent your potassium level
prescribed for people who have angina (chest disorders. getting too low.
pain). They also help to reduce the workload of Tell your doctor or nurse if you have had an

of further problems
3 Reducing your risk
the heart. unusual reaction to a vasodilator in the past. What are the main side effects? My drug dosage is based on three
Diarrhoea applications a day: a morning,
What side effects should I tell my Nausea and vomiting a lunchtime and an evening
doctor or nurse about? Stomach pain. dosage I have three boxes
Throbbing headache Important divided into the days of the week
Flushing Which side effects should I tell my which anybody can buy from the
Viagra (sildenafil/PDE-5 Inhibitor)
interacts with vasodilators and can doctor or nurse about? pharmacist and I have found them
Rapid heartbeat. make your condition or angina worse. Stomach pain most useful because I have a
Always check with your doctor before
Chest or throat pain.
terrible memory, incredibly bad
taking Viagra or other PDE-5 inhibitors. memory. So I put all the

4 Living with heart failure

What checks do I need? relevant tablets into the
You will need a blood test to check your
relevant boxes.
levels of potassium before being prescribed
these medications, especially if you are also
taking a diuretic. And you will need to continue
having blood tests regularly while taking these

What else do I need to know?

5 Getting help
Potassium is an important substance in the blood

and information
that helps your heart function. But having too
much or too little potassium can be dangerous.
You should not use salt substitutes as they may
contain potassium and if you take them you may
get more potassium than is safe for you.

32 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 33

Reducing your
Here are some tips to help you
5 Tell your pharmacist or doctor if
risk of further
1 Record all the different medications
you take, and when you take them. you think a medication is giving you
Use your Personal record at the back of a problem. If you think your symptoms
this guide to do so. are getting worse or if you get a new
symptom, talk to your doctor about it.
2 Dont stop taking any medication
without medical advice, even if you 6 Always check with your pharmacist
feel better. Stopping suddenly can be or doctor before taking any over-the-
dangerous. counter medication that has not been
prescribed for you. Show them the list
3 Dont run out of medication. Plan
of medications that you are taking.
ahead and make sure you have plenty
for when you go away and during 7 Dont give your medication to other
holiday periods when many pharmacies people. They may harm them, even if
are closed. the other person also has heart failure.
4 Never take a double dose. If you have
missed taking a dose by a few hours,
take it as soon as you remember. If it is
nearly time for your next dose, skip the
one you missed and take the next dose

4 Living with heart failure

at its scheduled time. Use a dosette box
available from pharmacies to help you
organise your medication.

5 Getting help
and information
34 British Heart Foundation
Controlling your blood pressure

Controlling your blood pressure 37 Your heart failure may have been caused by
high blood pressure. You can read about blood
pressure in detail in our booklet Blood pressure
Eating a healthy diet 38 (see page 102 for how to order this).
Even if you dont have high blood pressure now,
or if its well controlled with medication, there
Managing your fluid balance 42 are still things you can do to keep it under
control. These things include:

Stopping smoking 48 eating a healthy balanced diet,

including reducing or cutting out salt
managing your fluid intake
Limiting your alcohol 49
maintaining a healthy body weight

Keeping active 50 keeping your alcohol intake to the

recommended limits
stopping smoking
keeping active.
We look at each of these things in the
following pages.

4 Living with heart failure

5 Getting help
and information
An everyday guide to living with heart failure 37
Eating a healthy diet

Does a healthy diet help people If youre a vegetarian

with heart failure? Its important not to rely on cheese for your protein as it can be high in saturated
fat, and you may also miss out on some essential nutrients. Make sure that you eat
Eating a healthy balanced diet is one of the best a good mix of protein foods include beans, peas and lentils (for example, in dhal)
things you can do to help you feel better. It will as they are good low-fat sources of protein and fibre. And balance your meals with
help you to: a wide variety of fruit, unsalted nuts and wholegrain cereals.
maintain a healthy weight If you are making curries or stews, dont add butter, ghee, palm oil or coconut,
control your symptoms as they are high in saturated fat. Instead, use unsaturated oils such as olive,
feel more energetic. rapeseed or sunflower.
Your diet is your bodys fuel. If you eat well,
it will help you to feel better generally. Include starchy carbohydrates at each meal
Bread, chapatis, pasta, plantain, potatoes, pasta, rice and yam, are
all examples of starchy foods that provide a slow release of energy.
Try to eat whole grain or wholemeal versions of bread, cereals, chapatis,
noodles, pasta and rice, as they contain more fibre, vitamins and minerals
than the white versions.

To help keep your heart healthy Choose lean sources of protein

Go for lean cuts of meat and include fish a couple of times a week. See the
Have small, regular meals advice on saturated fat and fish below.
Aim for three balanced meals a day, with healthy snacks in between if youre hungry. Beans, dhal, lentils and peas contain protein and fibre, are low in fat and can
be used to bulk out meat dishes or as vegetarian alternatives to meat or fish.
Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day Eggs can be eaten as part of a balanced diet, but take care not to add fat
Include a variety of fruit and vegetables of all different colours think of eating during cooking.
a rainbow. If youre trying to lose weight, eat nuts and seeds only occasionally, as they
Fruit and vegetables can be fresh, frozen, dried or canned, or in the form of pure are high in calories. Always choose unsalted nuts.

4 Living with heart failure

juice. If youre having canned produce, choose fruit canned in natural juice rather
than syrup, and choose vegetables canned in water without added salt. Eat two or more portions of fish every week
One portion equals: In particular, have one portion of oily fish a week, or 2-3 if you have had a heart
2 tablespoons of vegetables (raw, cooked, frozen or canned) attack. Oily fish includes mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring, trout, pilchards and
1 cereal bowl of salad (eg, with tomato, cucumber and onion) fresh tuna. (Tinned tuna doesnt count as an oily fish, but its still a good source
1 whole fruit (apple or pear) of low-fat protein.)
2-3 whole pieces of smaller fruit (eg, 2 kiwis or 3 apricots) All types of fish are a good source of low-fat protein unless you coat them
1 slice of larger fruit (melon or pineapple) in batter or fry them! Fresh or frozen fish can be steamed, grilled or baked.
1 cupful of small fruits (grapes, cherries or berries) If you buy tinned fish, look for fish in tomato sauce or water rather than brine,
1 small glass of fruit juice (only 1 glass a day can count towards which contains a lot of salt. If you can only find fish in brine, make sure you
your 5 portions a day). rinse the fish well before eating it.

5 Getting help
and information
38 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 39
Have less saturated fat and sugar Weight and your diet Ive lost a lot of weight and
Avoid fatty meat and meat products like sausages or meat pies. Instead, I cant put it back on.
choose lean meat, poultry or fish, and remove the skin from meat and poultry. Ive been told to lose weight.
Many dairy products are high in saturated fat. Try to use semi-skimmed Being underweight can be as much of a
or skimmed milk instead of full-fat milk. Choose low-fat yoghurts and limit
Will eating a healthy diet help? problem as being overweight. If you think you
the amount of cheese you eat, or try reduced-fat versions. Maintaining a healthy weight and shape will help are underweight or not able to put on weight,
Replace fatty and sugary snacks such as cakes, biscuits and chocolate with your symptoms. Controlling how much you you need to talk to your doctor. He or she may
with healthier alternatives such as fruit, vegetable sticks or low-fat yoghurt. eat, as well as what you eat, will also help with recommend that you see a dietitian who will
Swap palm oil, coconut oil, ghee, lard or butter with small amounts your weight management. Follow the advice on give you some advice on how to increase your
of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, corn oil pages 38-40. weight safely.
or sunflower oil.
However, if you need to lose weight, simply
Measure out oil with a spoon or use a spray and try a low-fat spread.
changing your diet may not be enough. Being
Where can I find more information
Remember that all fats are high in calories, so if youre trying to lose weight, physically active is a vital part of weight control. about healthy eating and weight loss?
reduce your overall intake of fats. Your condition and symptoms may make it You will find much more information in our
difficult for you to be physically active, but you booklets listed below. Because of your heart
Have less salt should try to keep as active as you can. Speak to failure, youll have to be particularly careful
Salt can increase the amount of fluid that you retain in your body, leading to your doctor or nurse about how you can do this. about the amount of fluid and salt you have,
sudden weight gain and oedema (collection of fluid in the ankles, legs and lungs). Remember that if you are not as active as you so read pages 42-46 of this guide. However,
So its very important to: used to be and you are still eating the same the information in our other booklets should
cut down on the amount of salt and salty foods you eat amount as before, you will still put on weight, not conflict with the advice for heart failure,
avoid adding extra salt to your food as even healthy food has calories. as we recommend that everyone eats a low-salt
check food labels when shopping, to keep an eye on hidden salt in foods. diet whether or not they have a heart condition.
Please note: People with heart failure can
We say more about salt on pages 42-44. often put weight on over a few days if they Cut down on salt
are retaining fluid. This is not the same as the Cut the saturated fat
weight gain that happens over time if youve Eating well

4 Living with heart failure

been eating too much or not doing enough Guide to food labelling
physical activity. It is important that you know So you want to lose weightfor good
what the reason is for your weight gain so that
you can manage it properly. See pages 46-47 See page 102 for information on ordering
for more on managing your fluid intake. our publications.

5 Getting help
and information
40 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 41
Managing your fluid balance

If you have problems with swelling, sudden How much salt should I be eating? How do I know how much salt Tips for reducing salt
weight gain and increased shortness of breath,
Our bodies need some salt to stay healthy. is in my food? Dont have a salt mill on the table.
it could be because you are retaining too
Experts recommend that adults should eat less About three-quarters of the salt we eat comes
much fluid. This alone can reduce your salt
than 6 grams of salt a day. (This is equivalent from processed foods. Salt is often hidden in
You can usually tell if your weight gain is due to 2.5 grams or 2,500 milligrams of sodium.) intake by up to a third.
these foods and it can be difficult to know exactly
to fluid if you put on 1-2 pounds in 2-3 days. If you have heart failure, you should try and how much you are eating. Use herbs and spices instead of salt
If this is the case then you should tell your doctor keep your intake even lower than this as
The easiest way to find out how much salt there to flavour your food.
or heart failure nurse who will be able to advise low as possible or at the level your doctor has
you on what steps you should take. recommended for you. is, is to check the nutrition information labels on Avoid instant or flavoured snacks,
packets and cans. Look for the salt or sodium
To help you to control your fluid intake and avoid Most of the salt we eat isnt what we add to content. This is usually shown as the amount of
including soups.
the sudden weight gain: food its already present in foods such as bread, salt or sodium per 100 grams. As a simple guide, Rinse canned foods and avoid those
cereals and pre-prepared meals. Check the food try to go for low-salt foods that is, foods that
reduce the amount of salt you eat
labels to keep an eye on your salt intake. in brine wherever possible choose
watch the amount of fluid you drink contain 0.3 grams or less of salt per 100 grams.
See the sample food labels on page 45.
those canned in water instead.
weigh yourself every day at the same time
make sure you take your medication properly. But food tastes awful without salt! Read the labels on packaged and
Most people get used to the different taste within canned foods. Wherever possible,
a month or two. Try using herbs and spices to choose foods low in salt (0.3 grams
flavour your food instead. Also, look at our tips or less per 100 grams).
for reducing salt on the next page.
Reduce the amount If a food carries the label Low salt it
What about salt substitutes? should mean that a serving of the food
of salt you eat contains 25% less salt than standard
Be careful with these. Some salt substitutes
versions of the same product. But
How will eating less salt help my heart? can be very high in potassium and are not
beware that if the standard version
recommended if you have heart failure. It would

4 Living with heart failure

Salt is a combination of two substances: sodium be better just to try and gradually get used to is very high in salt, the low-salt version
and chloride. Our bodies need salt to help keep the different taste of your food without salt. could also still be high. A product truly
a balance of water in the body. Too much salt
can make your body hold on to water, which
low in salt should contain 0.3 grams
puts a strain on your heart. This leads to swelling
I get Meals on Wheels. How of salt or less, per 100 grams.
in your feet, ankles (oedema) and even your can I make sure Im not eating
stomach (ascites). The swelling can cause sudden too much salt?
weight gain and make you breathless. Eating less
Meals on Wheels provide low-salt options
salt or cutting it out altogether can help reduce
for those who need them.
the amount of water your body holds on to.

5 Getting help
and information
42 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 43
Low-salt or no-salt foods P re-packed dinners (If you are having these, Cereal Low-sodium chicken broth
try to find ones with less than 0.3 grams of
Most supermarkets have low-salt or no-salt salt or 0.1 grams of sodium per 100 grams) Nutrition Information Nutrition Information
versions of many foods. You can check the Bread and rolls with salted tops Typical values Per portion (1 can) Per 100g
Typical values Per serving (30g) Per 100g
information on the products, or ask at your Sauces such as soy sauce, Worcestershire
Energy 120kcal 400kcal Energy 106kj 42.4kj
supermarket whats available. sauce or relishes
Cereals with a high sodium content (Porridge Protein 4g 13.3g Energy (kcal) 25kcal 10kcal
However, do be careful to check whether these Protein 4g 1.6g
and some wholegrain cereals are better Carbohydrate: 12g 40g
products contain salt substitutes. Remember Of which sugars 1g 3.3g
check the food labels) Carbohydrate: 1g 0.4g
that some salt substitutes are very high in Of which sugars 1g 0.4g
Ready-mixed spice blends or seasonings. Sodium 0.15g 0.5g
potassium and are not recommended if you
have heart failure. Also be aware that salt can be hidden in bread Fat 1g 3.3g Sodium 0.14g 0.056g
and some breakfast cereals, and in sweet foods Of which saturates 0.2g 0.7g Fat 0.5g 0.2g
If you cant find the information or cant get to
such as cakes and biscuits. Fibre 2g 6.7g Of which saturates 0.5g 0.2g
your supermarket, ask your doctor to refer you
to a dietitian for information on low-salt eating. Fibre 0g 0g
How to find out how much
Foods to limit or avoid sodium is in your food Chocolate digestive biscuit
Nutrition Information
Lentil and bacon soup
T inned meats such as spam, corned beef Salt often appears as sodium on nutrition
or chopped pork information labels (or food labels). On the Typical values Per biscuit Per 100g Nutrition Information
Pre-packed sliced meats such as pre-packed next page there are sample labels from some Energy 700kj 2101kj Typical values Per portion (can) Per 100g
ham, turkey or chicken everyday foods. Ideally, you should choose Energy 167kcal 502kcal Energy 477kj 230kj
Tinned fish in brine (Try to buy fish canned foods that contain less than 0.1 gram of
Protein 2.3g 6.9g Energy 113kcal 55kcal
in water, or vacuum-packed. If you can only sodium per 100 grams. So which of these
Carbohydrate: 21g 62.2g Protein 6.0g 2.9g
find fish in brine, rinse the fish thoroughly) foods would be OK?
Of which sugars 11.1g 33.4g
Bacon, kippers and smoked foods

4 Living with heart failure

Carbohydrate: 16.2g 7.8g
Crisps and salted snacks Sodium 0.17g 0.5g Of which sugars 2.7g 1.3g
Cured, pickled or salted foods such as pickled
onions or olives
Fat 8.3g 250g Sodium 0.69g 0.33g
Of which saturates 4g 120g
Salted butter and margarine Fat 2.7g 1.3g
Fibre 0.5g 2.4g Of which saturates 1.0g 0.5g
Instant sauces, stock cubes or yeast extract Fibre 1.7g 0.8g
instant drinks
Tinned soups and dry soup mixes, instant A lot of everyday foods are high in salt. Of
hot noodles and instant pasta snacks the four foods above, only one is below the
Processed meats such as sausages, pies recommended limit of sodium the low-sodium
and burgers chicken broth. On the nutrition information label

5 Getting help
for this, you can see that it has only 0.056 grams

and information
of sodium per 100 grams, which is below the
recommended limit of 0.1 grams per 100 grams.

44 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 45

Watch the amount Weigh yourself regularly How often should I weigh myself?
of fluid you drink Its best to weigh yourself every day. Some people
Ive been told to weigh myself with heart failure find that their weight can go
Do you know how much fluid you can have in a regularly. Why is this? up quite suddenly. It is important to know exactly
day? If youre not sure, ask your doctor or nurse. how much it has gone up by. Weighing yourself
Managing your fluid intake is important to
every day is the best and most accurate way to
control your symptoms, and weighing yourself
judge this.
regularly is a part of this. Weighing yourself at
the same time every day will tell you if you are
retaining fluid or putting on weight for the I find it difficult to weigh myself.
Tips for watching or restricting
reasons we discussed on page 41. Weight gain If you have difficulty with balancing on the scales
your fluids
due to fluid retention will usually happen over or reading the dial, ask a family member, friend
Keep a record of your daily fluids. You When you get thirsty, try some of a couple of days rather than weeks. or district nurse to help you whenever they visit.
can use the Personal record in the back of the following: You might notice that your weight has gone up
this guide. Chew chewing gum or have an by 2-3 pounds (about 1 kilo) in a day. If this gain
occasional boiled sweet. continues for a few days, it is probably because
Pour an amount of water equivalent to your body is holding on to too much water. You
everything you drink in a day into an Have a bit of frozen fruit such Tips on weighing yourself
may also notice more swelling in your ankles,
empty 2-litre bottle (or two 1-litre as grapes, orange or lemon. feet or abdomen, and your clothes or shoes The best time to weight yourself
bottles). Do this for a couple of days. Rinse your mouth with water might feel tighter.
is in the morning, without clothes
You can then see just how much you or chilled mouthwash, but dont
and after emptying your bladder.
are drinking. swallow it. What should I do if my weight goes
Use ice cubes instead of fluids. up suddenly? Use reliable weighing scales. Use the
When recording your fluids, remember Ice may satisfy your thirst more same scales in the same place each
Your doctor or nurse should have told you about
to include foods that contain a lot of than water. time and put them on a firm flat
things that you can do to manage any small

4 Living with heart failure

water, such as soups, gravy, sauces, ice Add a little lime juice or lemon juice weight gain because of fluid retention. They may surface preferably not on a carpet.
cream, jelly, canned fruit, or tinned to water. The sour taste will quench suggest restricting your fluids and adjusting your
Keep a daily weight chart. Use the
tomatoes. your thirst more quickly. dose of water tablets (diuretics). If you notice a
gain of more than 6 pounds (about 2.5 kilos) over one in your Personal record at the
Please note the advice given on three days, you should tell your doctor or nurse. back of this guide.
page 23 (Diuretics). Also, if you notice a persistent cough or increased Choose to weigh yourself either in
shortness of breath, these may be signs that fluid stones and pounds or in kilos and
is building up in your lungs so you should stick to that.
phone your doctor or nurse immediately. These
changes may happen because your heart is If you are going to see your doctor,
take your weight chart with you.

5 Getting help
struggling to cope with the build-up of water in

and information
your body.

46 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 47

Stopping smoking Limiting your alcohol

Smoking increases the workload of your heart I want to stop smoking where Can alcohol affect my heart? Should I stop drinking alcohol?
and decreases the amount of oxygen that can can I get help? Drinking more than the recommended limits Unless your doctor has told you to give up
be carried in your blood. Giving up smoking
It can be hard to give up, but getting the of alcohol may: alcohol completely, you can enjoy having a
is the single most important thing that you can
right support will help you to succeed. drink so long as you drink sensibly. That means
do to help to protect your heart. cause high blood pressure
a modest amount avoid binge-drinking.
G Ps, practice nurses or pharmacists can provide damage your heart muscle
Ive smoked for years and advice, information and tips on how cause arrhythmias (problems with your heart Whether you drink every day, once or twice
rhythm) a week, or just occasionally:
I really enjoy it! to stop smoking.
change your fluid balance (and increase
Our booklet Stop smoking offers more m en should not regularly drink more than
Smoking is a strong habit. Nicotine acts like information see page 102 for how swelling)
3 to 4 units of alcohol a day
a drug and its addictive. It can: to order this. lead to weight gain (as it is high in calories).
women should not regularly drink more
make you feel alert Nicotine replacement therapy in the form Alcohol may make some symptoms of heart than 2 to 3 units of alcohol a day.
cheer you up of patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers is failure worse for example dizziness, tiredness
stop you feeling hungry available and has been found to almost double or fatigue. If you are taking warfarin you need
make you feel at ease and sociable your chances of success. to speak to your doctor or anticoagulation clinic 1 unit of alcohol =
be one of the few things you enjoy If you have access to the internet, have a look about how much alcohol you can drink.
at the moment. at
Helplines such as Quitline on 0800 00 22 00
But surely the odd cigarette wont can provide advice and encouragement. a small glass (100ml) of wine
make any difference to me now? (10% ABV [alcohol by volume])
Yes it will. Stopping smoking can: or
prevent further damage to your lungs
reduce your risk of having a heart attack
or stroke
half a pint (about 300ml) of

4 Living with heart failure

reduce your risk of lung diseases like cancer
increase your energy levels normal-strength lager, cider
help you to sleep better or beer (for example, 3.5% ABV)
improve your circulation and the oxygen
levels in your blood or
improve your symptoms
help you feel good about yourself.
a pub measure (25ml) of spirits.

5 Getting help
and information
48 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 49
Keeping active

Being active can be a challenge if you are limited What type of activity is best? I dont feel I can do very much at all. What happens if I miss a day?
as to how much you can do. However, physical
If you are already quite fit, brisk walking, Think about what you already do every day. Not being active for a day or two can mean that
activity is an excellent way to protect your heart.
swimming or dancing is good. For some people This includes everyday activities like going to you have to build up to your previous level of
Being active can: it might be a more modest activity such as the shops or walking down the street, doing the fitness again. Make sure you start at a level that
a gentle walk or a yoga class. Some people housework or even preparing a meal or making you are comfortable with this may mean going
h elp reduce some of your symptoms such as
may not be able to do these types of activities a cup of tea. Any activity even just walking back a step or two.
shortness of breath and fatigue
but will still be helped by strengthening or around at home is good for you as long as
improve the flow of oxygen around your body
raise your energy levels and reduce stress levels
chair-based exercises. you do it regularly and every day. I have young children and I get
and fatigue And physical activity isnt limited to sports, exhausted trying to keep up with
maintain and improve your fitness and stamina exercise or going to the gym. There are many What about when there is bad weather them let alone with my friends.
reduce your blood pressure regular activities we do on a daily basis that like snow, or when it is windy?
help to increase the protective type of involve being active, such as walking the dog, It can be difficult to balance childcare and a
You could work out a walk inside your home that social life on top of everything else. You may feel
cholesterol in your blood playing with children or grandchildren, washing
is the same distance as you usually walk outside, discouraged if you struggle to keep up with your
help to control your weight the car and doing the housework. What is
and do it at home instead. children or friends. Talk to your friends and family
help you sleep important is that:
keep your joints flexible and encourage them to do activities that you can
improve your general wellbeing.
the activity is regular Im not very good at sticking to things. join in with. When it is time for you to rest, they
it suits your level of heart failure can increase their level of activity while you
you do some every day. You might want to join a class to help keep you
watch, rest or do something less strenuous.
But is it safe? motivated. Ask your doctor or nurse about
exercise on prescription. Or they may know of Dont be tempted to overstretch yourself and
Unless you have been told by your doctor to rest Is there anything I shouldnt do? cardiac rehabilitation classes in your area. (This try to keep up with everyone as this can make
completely, regular activity and exercise will help
You may be advised to avoid hard physical sports is a class for people with lots of different types you feel worse. It can be hard to force yourself
strengthen your heart, control your symptoms
such as squash or weightlifting. Vigorous activity of heart problems. It includes specially tailored to rest, particularly if you are feeling well,
and make you feel better. Even just getting out
may not be good for you. This is because when exercise sessions as well as information sessions but in the long run it will mean that you are
of your chair or not lying in bed all day can help
you make a sudden, hard physical effort, your on topics such as healthy eating and managing able to keep your condition and symptoms

4 Living with heart failure

to improve your flexibility and mental wellbeing.
blood pressure goes up. You also need to take your medication.) under control.
care not to be competitive (either with others or
Dont be afraid to ask for help with looking
with yourself!) as you might get carried away and But Ive been told to rest. after your family, and certainly accept offers
end up doing more than is safe. You may become
Its important to make sure you have regular rest of help so that you are not too tired to enjoy
stiff and sore and will be getting into the
periods, but resting all the time is not good for being with the children and doing things
overactivity-rest cycle (see page 52).
you. If you want to keep fit and active, you need they enjoy too. You may also be entitled
to plan both rest and activity. to help and benefits that will enable you
to look after your children. See page 79 for
more details.
How often should I be active?
Ideally it should be every day. It is much easier

5 Getting help
and information
to get into the habit of doing something on a
daily basis. Making activity part of your daily
routine also means you are more likely to
remember to do it.

50 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 51

The overactivity-rest cycle You may find that you then end up with bad Making an activity plan 1 Make a list of weekly activities
days where you dont want to get out of bed Jot down all the activities that you have to
If you push yourself to a point of exhaustion and you feel tired and ill all day. You may be If you want to increase your fitness, you have do in a week, and how many times you have
on a regular basis, you may find that youre not so tired you cant do anything for a few days. to do it in a planned way and find a balance to do them. These could include:
balancing your activity and rest effectively. As Many of us tend to overdo things when between doing too much and too little.
h ow often you have to do the shopping
a result, instead of getting fitter or maintaining were feeling full of energy, but we suffer
Your plan will vary according to your or gardening
your level of fitness, you decrease it. for it afterwards. This is known as the
commitments and how well you are. Plan to how often you have to look after your children
overactivity-rest cycle.
You may be in an overactivity-rest cycle if you do what you know you can achieve, rather than or grandchildren
find that you have good and bad days of activity So even though you work really hard on one day continuing because you feel you can. Learn to the days when you have a heavy workload,
levels. On good days you may feel that you can to get fitter, the fact that you have to rest for a stick to your plan and stop when you have done whether thats housework or a manual job
do anything. On these days you may: couple of days afterwards means that you dont what you planned. the hours you spend at work.
stay fit, and may even make yourself feel worse.
try and do everything at once
Its also easier to become unfit than it is to be fit.
tackle all the gardening, or do all the
housework thats been piling up The way to overcome this problem is to make List of weekly activities How many times a week
walk that bit further than you would an activity plan.
do normally. Daily walk 7
Shopping 3
Gardening 2
Fitness Collecting children or grandchildren 1
The amount of activity you do

Fitness Going out with friends 1
Fitness Yoga 1
Walk to work, bus or train station 5

4 Living with heart failure


Days Weeks

5 Getting help
and information
52 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 53
2 Write down when you need to 3 Stick to your plan What about the days when I have What would you like
do your activities
Use a weekly activity plan like the one below.
Unless you are feeling ill, do what you planned
to do that day, even if you dont feel like it. If you
something special like a birthday to do more of?
Then plan all the other things you need or want have planned to do the shopping on one day and
celebration or a wedding?
Write a list of the things you would like to do
to do in the week, and write them in. look after the grandchildren the next, stick to that There are some days when you will do more
more of, then read on for our tips on setting
plan. If you dont, youll end up doing too much in than you usually do for example, going to
S et yourself realistic goals so that you dont realistic goals so that you can do more of the
one day, and youll get over-tired and be back in or organising a birthday celebration or wedding,
over-exert yourself. See Setting realistic goals things you enjoy.
the overactivity-rest cycle! or on a trip. Special events which can be tiring
on page 56.
will not affect some people but for others it
Work out how much of each activity you can B uild up your activity gradually and rest
may require planning ahead.
do fairly easily on each day, and only do that between activities each day. As you get
amount in one go. fitter you will be able to do more without If you think such events may affect you, try to
Mix activities together so that you dont have getting tired. reduce the amount of activity you do the day
too many heavy ones on the same day, and You may find it helpful to do some things before and the day after, and try to build rest
I would like to be able to:
mix ones you enjoy with those that are more more slowly, to start and finish with a less periods into the day. If you are organising a party
tedious. strenuous activity, and reflect on how much or celebration, make sure you have enough help
you are achieving. before, during and after the event, and that your
planning starts early so that you are not doing
everything at the last minute. The most important
thing is to enjoy such occasions.

Activity plan M T W T F S S
Daily walk x x x x x x x
Shopping x x x

4 Living with heart failure

Gardening x x
Children x
Work x x x
Going out with friends x
Yoga x

5 Getting help
and information
54 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 55
Setting realistic goals 2 Reach the goal How long will it take me to get fit? What about times when Im ill?
Practise at your baseline. If possible do it every
Levels of fitness vary between different If youre ill or recovering from illness, for example
You might have given up doing certain things day for a week. If working at this level makes you
people and are dependent on how well you with a cold or flu, you may have to take it easy
because you havent felt able to do them. Or so tired that you have to rest the next day, your
are generally. It will also depend on how fit for a few days. Dont worry if you arent able to
there may be some things that you want to do baseline is too high. Try walking every other day
you are to begin with. The main thing is that meet your baseline follow your doctors or
more of. Setting yourself realistic goals will help instead. Once you have found your baseline and
you take things slowly and try to do something nurses advice on how much activity you can
you to plan your activities at a manageable pace you have managed it for a fixed time, you will
to help your fitness levels every day. That way manage. When youre well enough to start again,
and avoid the overactivity-rest cycle. have reached your goal.
you should begin to notice a difference in a remember that you may not be able to start at
1 Choose a goal 3 Choose a new goal few weeks. the same point that you were before you became
Look back at the activities you have written in When this level becomes easy, add the next unwell. Build up your strength slowly. Youll soon
the Things I would like to do more of list on page bit of your goal, or do the activity for longer. How can I tell if Im improving? get back to where you were before.
55. These are your goals. Pick one of those goals
Goal-setting is the safest way for you to get back You should feel stronger, less tired and able to
to start with try something straightforward like
to doing things. You can set goals for more than do more things without becoming too breathless.
What about holidays?
walking more.
one activity just keep them realistic and dont While youre on holiday it is still possible, and
Work out what part of your goal you can do fairly put yourself under undue pressure to do too Why not make a note of your progress? Perhaps
advisable, to fit some activity into each day.
easily now. (For example, if you chose walking, many things at once. The diagram below shows you could keep a diary and show it to your doctor
For instance, you could go on a walk or do
your goal might be to do a 10-minute walk each you how you will be able to do more as your or nurse. Or make a chart and pin it on your
chair-based exercise.
day.) This is your baseline. It should be a level fitness increases. kitchen wall to remind yourself just how well
that you can manage comfortably. you are doing!
Any other problems?
What are the challenges? If you suddenly feel ill and tired for no reason, or
if your symptoms get worse or suddenly come on
You may find that you are getting caught up
with less effort or more frequently, you must tell
in the overactivity-rest cycle (see page 52) or
your doctor.
Number of minutes

that you are unable to meet the goals that you

of activity per day

Fitness have set yourself. If any of this happens, dont If your doctor or nurse has told you not to do

4 Living with heart failure

20 give up. Reduce your baseline so that its just certain things, you must do as they say. If you
right for you and then carry on. Youll soon are going to change what you are doing, check
make progress again. with your doctor or nurse first. Take this Everyday
10 guide with you and show them how you plan
Remember the golden rules:
to get back to being more active.
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Increase your activity gradually.
15 minutes 20 minutes 25 minutes 30 minutes Do what you planned, and not what
activity a day activity a day activity a day activity a day you feel like. Iused to do so much and had so
Start each activity at a level thats many life plans. Energy pockets
The dotted line shows how fitness improves just right for you.
Go slowly and build up gently.
are so slim [now] and I have
learned to use pacing as much

5 Getting help
and information
Your heart failure nurse or cardiac rehabilitation
nurse should be able to help you set a realistic
as possible.
goal to work from as a baseline.

56 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 57

How to use goal-setting to
work out how much activity
Tips on activity L iving with
you can do
Check with your doctor or nurse that
what you plan to do is safe for you. heart failure
Example: Walking
Do your activities at the same time
Think about an activity you want to do for every day.
example, walking. Imagine a line from Too easy Make sure you warm up first when
to Too much. Ask yourself: How far could I walk
that would be somewhere in the middle like
doing any activity. For example,
just right? if you plan to go for a walk, do the first
few minutes at a slow pace and then
Too easy Just right Too much
go a little bit faster. It is also important
to cool down towards the end of an
Step 1 Choose a goal.
Lets say you think that walking for ten minutes activity or exercise.
say down to the newsagents or the school gates Start each activity at a level thats just
and back would be just right. (Dont forget that
right for you. If you are (or have been)
youve got to come back!) Thats your goal.
unwell, go back to a lower level of
Step 2 Reach the goal. activity until you feel better.
On day 1, do the walk. Dont do more, even
if you feel you should have chosen a longer Build up slowly and gently so it doesnt
walk. Do what you planned, not what you feel hurt. If activities hurt, youre not likely
like. If, before you reach your goal, you feel that to keep them up. A gradual increase
you have chosen a walk that was too far, stop
works better.
and go back.

4 Living with heart failure

Check if it was just right. If you feel any pain or get exhausted,
When you get back from the walk, check on the stop.
line. If it was really just right, keep to it as your
Be careful if you are doing activities
baseline. Or if it was closer to too much or too
easy, adjust your baseline in the appropriate way. with other people, as they may go
too fast for you.
Do the just right walk every day for one week.
This gives you time to see if you get the effects Think of different activities, and vary
of too much exercise muscle soreness, stiffness them to keep yourself interested.
and so on which may only begin after a few
days. (You dont want to make yourself so stiff

5 Getting help
and sore that you have to stop your activity

and information
Step 3 Choose a new goal.
After a week, ask yourself again, Is this still
just right? If not, ask yourself what would
be just right now. Make that your new goal.

58 British Heart Foundation

Looking after yourself at home and at work

Looking after yourself at home and at work 61 Is it all right to keep working? You only need one vaccine for pneumonia in your
lifetime, but the flu vaccine is different every year
Most people with heart failure can continue to so you need to have it annually. This will reduce
Getting out and about 63 work as long as they feel well enough. However,
you might need to make some adjustments
your risk of getting flu and will also reduce the
intensity of the infection.
because of the degree of your heart failure or
your symptoms. For example, you might need to Many GP surgeries now have regular vaccination
Dealing with stress, worry and anxiety 64 work shorter hours, or if you have a very physical dates for people over 65 or with long-term
illnesses, and they will send you a reminder
job you may need to consider reducing the
workload or changing your job. when yours is due. Ask to be put on the list
Managing the changing relationships 74 In some employments such as the armed forces,
at your surgery if you are not already on it.

airline pilots and HGV drivers there may be

restrictions with regard to long-term illnesses.
I have diabetes. Is there anything
Sex 77 You may decide that continuing to work is
I need to do?
not the best option for you. If you are not sure Having diabetes increases your risk of getting
coronary heart disease. Uncontrolled blood sugar
Financial worries 79 about what you can do at work or feel unable to
continue with your present job, ask your doctor, levels can also make you feel tired and generally
GP or nurse for advice. unwell. Talk to your heart failure doctor, GP or
diabetic nurse about what you can do to make
Facing severe illness 80 Should I have flu and pneumonia jabs? sure your diabetes is controlled.

It is very important to protect yourself against

Planning for the future 83 colds, flu and lung infections because you may be
at risk of developing complications related to
your heart failure. Protecting yourself includes
making sure that any visitors know not to visit
you if they are unwell.
Everyone who has heart failure should be
immunised against pneumonia and flu.

5 Getting help
and information
An everyday guide to living with heart failure 61
Getting out and about

What about pregnancy and Can I carry children or heavy items? Can I drive? A flight may also make you breathless and
increase the risk of swelling in your ankles.
contraception? If you have small children or care for them The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) This is because there is less oxygen on board
Being pregnant puts extra strain on the heart regularly, physical contact is important and it has laid down regulations about when you have the aircraft and the cabin pressure is different
and could make your condition worse. If you would be unrealistic to exclude carrying them. to declare your condition to them. Not everyone to the air pressure on land. If your symptoms
are a woman of childbearing age and have heart However, carrying children or other heavy items with heart failure will be affected by the are severe, your doctor may advise that you
failure, you may be advised against becoming will increase the workload of your heart and regulations. You can find out about whether you have oxygen available while you are on a flight.
pregnant. Talk to your doctor about what is best can make you feel breathless. If your children can continue to drive or not from their website
can walk, encourage them to do so, or use a Leave plenty of time to organise your travel
for you and about methods of contraception.
pushchair. Around the home, reduce the effort plans so that everything is ready for your journey
If you have cardiomyopathy, especially if it was While the DVLA may not always require you to and you dont have to rush. Make sure there
on your part by asking them to climb onto your
caused by your pregnancy (post-partum dilated declare your condition to them, you should tell is someone to help you to lift any heavy luggage
lap rather than lifting them up. Or ask a partner
cardiomyopathy), your doctor may advise that your insurance company separately. Failing to tell at the check-in. Remember that departure gates
or friend to pass you a child rather than picking
you do not become pregnant again. You may them about your condition may affect any claims at airports can be a 20-minute walk from the
them up yourself, and limit the amount of time
also be concerned about passing on your you may make in the future. security gate. It may be better to organise for
you spend carrying them.
condition to your children. For more information transport to your departure gate or ask to use
see our booklet Inherited heart conditions: If you have heavy shopping or regularly lift heavy Im worried about travelling. Is it safe? a wheelchair so that you are not rushing to get
Dilated cardiomyopathy (see page 102 for how items, try to use a shopping trolley with wheels to the aeroplane.
to take your shopping home, or a trolley to move Travelling can be tiring for everyone, so make
to order this).
heavy things. Take someone with you to help sure that you plan any journeys carefully and
include plenty of breaks. This is particularly What about travel insurance?
transfer the shopping from the trolley to the car.
Pushing or pulling heavy items will also increase important if you are driving. Try and share the For more tips and information on travel,
the workload of your heart. Try to keep the driving if possible. including insurance, please see our
distance you need to move things to a minimum. If your journey is for two to three hours in a train website or call our Heart
While its important for you to remain or car, try to walk about or plan stops every hour Helpline on 0300 330 3311 (similar cost to 01
independent and get on with your everyday life, or hour-and-a-half, for at least five or ten minutes. or 02 numbers).
remember to watch how much you are doing You can also do ankle and foot exercises while
and avoid getting into the overactivity-rest cycle you are sitting to keep the blood flowing around
(described on page 52). your legs and reduce the risk of a DVT.
If you want to travel for longer, or by air,
What about HRT? its sensible to talk to your doctor or nurse
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may beforehand. Sitting still for long periods of time
increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (like on a long-haul flight) can increase the risk
in people with heart failure. (A DVT is when a of a DVT.
clot forms in one of the large veins in your body,
usually the leg). You should speak to your doctor
about the risk to you.

5 Getting help
and information
62 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 63
Dealing with stress, worry and anxiety

What are stress and anxiety? What are the symptoms of stress Stress and heart failure Being afraid to do anything for fear of making
We all experience stress and anxiety from time and anxiety? your symptoms worse can make you feel isolated,
to time and what is stressful for one person may When you are under stress or are anxious, the
Being told I have heart failure was stressed or depressed. Talk to your heart failure
nurse or doctor or to your GP about what you
be a positive challenge for someone else. hormone adrenaline is released into the blood. a terrible shock! should be doing to keep your heart as fit as
However, any situation that leaves you feeling Adrenaline helps to prepare our bodies for the Many people with heart failure say that it was possible.
unwell or unable to cope may be defined as fight or flight response when we are challenged a terrible shock to be told that they had heart
stressful. For example, worrying about getting or in a position of danger. You will feel your heart
something done on time, or worrying about rate increase and may find that you are breathing
failure. The words themselves can be frightening. I cant cope with my symptoms.
They bring with them a feeling that life will be
money or your children. more heavily. You may also experience other short or difficult, or that it will have to change
I get really frightened.
Stress is the opposite of relaxation and it is a physical and emotional symptoms such as: dramatically. Most people find that being out of breath is
natural part of life. We need both in order to live headaches one of the most frightening symptoms of heart
You will have lots of questions about how you will
a full and active life. Without some stress you tense shoulders and jaw failure. But by learning to recognise the onset
cope, both mentally and financially. Will you be
would lose energy and feel demotivated. It is indigestion of symptoms that can cause shortness of breath,
able to work? What about your family or children?
when you have more stress than you feel able butterflies in the stomach such as a build-up of fluid, you can spot the
Who will look after you? You may feel that your
to cope with that problems occur. difficulty concentrating problem early and treat it before it happens.
whole world has turned upside down.
Anxiety is a feeling of uncertainty, fear and dry mouth Being out of breath isnt always a sign that
difficulty thinking clearly These are all common feelings and fears. But
worry. It is normal for people with long-term something is wrong. You may find that you
trouble sleeping understanding your condition and being in
illness to be worried about their condition. The breathe more quickly when you are worried
restlessness control of it will help you to live as normal a life
term heart failure sounds frightening, and some or frightened. Try the relaxation techniques
low spirits as possible. Some people may find that their life
of the symptoms feel frightening. When you are on pages 68-69 if you feel a sense of panic or
feeling tired changes very little, while others may have more
worried, your heart rate increases and you fear. Relaxing will help to regulate the flow of
eating more unhealthy foods or eating severe symptoms and need to adjust more.
become short of breath, which in turn can blood to your heart and lungs and reduce the
increase your level of anxiety. very little workload of your heart.
becoming physically inactive. Im afraid of doing anything in case
Understanding your condition and knowing
how to control your symptoms will help to relieve You may find that you develop unhealthy habits I get worse. I cant enjoy things any more.
some of the stress and anxiety that you feel. to help you deal with these feelings, like: Some people are scared of dying and do as Even watching TV seems pointless.
Knowing what triggers your stress and anxiety smoking more little as possible in case it makes their symptoms
We all have times when we feel worried and
can also help, as it means you can address the drinking more alcohol worse and leads to dying early. However, your
down. When this happen, it may help to accept
problem. Then you can start to relax. being less active. heart is a muscle and, like all muscles in your
that this is a day when you need to rest more.
body, it needs exercise to keep it healthy. Your
It is important to understand how you cope Find someone you can talk to they may
physical ability or tolerance levels may have
with feelings of stress and anxiety so that you help you to put your feelings into perspective.
changed, but you should still follow a plan that
can make positive changes to any poor lifestyle Try to think about the positive things that you
fits your lifestyle and symptoms. (See Making an
choices and prevent your symptoms getting have done and what you will try the next day,
activity plan on page 53.) This will help your heart
worse as a result. Poor lifestyle choices can also but dont be too ambitious.
to remain in the best condition possible.
increase your risk of developing coronary heart

5 Getting help
However, if you feel like this all the time, you

and information
disease. If you already have coronary heart may be depressed and need to speak to your
disease, they can increase your risk of having GP. Your medication may be the reason you are
a heart attack. feeling this way. Your GP may be able to change
your medication or arrange for you to see a
counsellor. We say more about depression on
page 72.

64 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 65

Ive had to stop work and I feel that with, and accepting the help thats offered, will However your symptoms affect your life, you Fighting back against
my life is over. allow you to be in control and prevent you from
feeling smothered.
may feel that your condition has made you a
burden on your family and friends or a nuisance.
stress, worry and anxiety
If you have had to stop work on your doctors Your role in the household may have changed.
advice, it can have a huge impact on your life. Your adrenaline level changes with your level of
You may even feel that youve lost your purpose
Im so frustrated because Im too weak For instance, you may not be able to do the same
stress, worry or anxiety and will affect how you
job, or the same number of hours, as before, and
in life. It may help to discuss other types of to do things and other people have to this may affect you financially. If youve always
feel and behave.
employment that you might be able to do help me all the time. been the one who takes care of things, handing
instead of your current job. If this is not possible, some or all of this over to someone else can be
If your symptoms are severe, you might find
you may be entitled to benefits to help you to very hard to accept. You may even feel that you
it a little more difficult to do what you think are High
cope (see page 79). Or try finding a new purpose are of little use to anyone.
simple tasks. You might find it easier to break Emotion Eg, when you
or hobby, or join a group this may bring back
jobs down into smaller steps and taking a rest But remember that balancing what you can do Rising panic, feel out of control
a sense of fulfilment and enjoyment.
between each one. For example, you dont have while accepting help from friends and family will anxious or fearful or receive bad news
to do all the washing up at once. Do a bit, have allow you to conserve energy, remain in control
People are driving me mad. They wont a rest, read the paper, and then do a bit more. and reduce your level of anxiety.
Impatient are waiting for
or aggressive results, are not
let me do anything. It may take longer that way, but if it means that
able to complete
you are still able to do the things you want to, Even if you are really limited in what you can do,
People who love you may be as upset and just being with others may be enough to make everyday tasks
then you will feel in control.
confused by your diagnosis as you are. They them and you happy. Snappy or tense have lost something
will want to protect you and in some cases It may help to save energy if you do some or are late for
it can feel that you are being smothered or activities while sitting down like preparing an appointment
wrapped in cotton wool. They are only trying the vegetables, or washing and drying yourself.
to do what they think is best for you. I talk to the people who are close Pleasantly excited are attending a
If you are very ill, you may have to accept help family event or party
Tell your family and friends that you appreciate from others so that you are not overwhelmed to me, I write a journal which
their concern, but going out and doing the things by your symptoms. Allowing them to do things Relaxed are on holiday,
helps to focus my feelings and calm reading, relaxing
you enjoy within the limits of what you find for you may also help them cope with their
comfortable will help you to keep stress and own anxiety. Low
depression at bay. Adrenaline level
It will help to share this Everyday guide with them I have to get my carer to do things
so that they understand your condition better. I normally do. Its embarrassing. Have a look at the emotions above. Where do you
It may also help them to read our booklet Living think you are right now? See if you can find a way
There may be some everyday tasks that you find to get your feelings back to the relaxed and calm
with heart failure. Talk to them honestly about
difficult such has bathing and getting to and level. Can you think of something that will help
how you feel and what you are doing to manage
from the toilet but you may not want to ask you get there? What about:
your symptoms. Explain that you need to stay
your carer for help with these things. The best
active to help keep your heart as healthy as listening to some favourite music
way to cope with this is to ask your carer how
possible. reading
he or she feels about it and tell them how you

5 Getting help
If there are things they can help you with, such feel. Speak to your GP or nurse who may be able sharing a quiet time with children or

and information
as looking after children, lifting heavy things to suggest how you can get someone elses help grandchildren
or carrying shopping, let them help, so that you without upsetting your carer. having a warm bath and daydreaming
feel well enough to do the things you need to sitting in your garden
do. Being honest about the things you need help stroking your cat or dog?

66 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 67

How can I reduce my levels A couple of hours after a meal, lie down The Worry list method How stress, worry and anxiety
of stress and anxiety? somewhere quiet and warm. Prop yourself up
on pillows, or sit in a chair if it helps with your
One of the effects of worry is feeling constantly
anxious. Some people have found that the Worry
can take over your life
breathing. Dont cross your legs. Let your arms list method helps. Make a list on a piece of paper
You wont always be able to avoid feeling stressed If you dont fight back against stress, worry and
rest beside you. of every possible thing you feel worried about.
and anxious, but by knowing what triggers these anxiety, they can begin to take over your life.
Just write a word or two to remind you what you
feelings and what to do about them, you can 1 Let all of the tension drain out of your body.
mean. Fill as many bits of paper as you need to, Are you experiencing any of the following?
control how they affect you.
2 Notice how your body relaxes slightly until you have written down everything you are
General anxiety
The following things should help you: every time you breathe out. Concentrate worrying about.
This is where you have the symptoms of anxiety
on your breathing.
B eing organised and prepared for events such Next, go through the list, crossing out all the most of the time. They can make life wretched.
as weddings and celebrations. 3 Each time you breathe out, say the word things you cant do anything about. Tell yourself, It becomes even worse if you start to worry about
Knowing what makes your symptoms worse, Relaaax silently to yourself as the air goes out. Theres no point in worrying about something I the symptoms of anxiety as well.
and how to control them. Dont force the air out. Let it go by itself. cant do anything about. If ever that thing comes
Avoiding things
Talking to someone. Trying to cope on your into your mind, say in your head, Stop. I will not
4 When thoughts distract you, just bring your Part of the job of adrenaline is to make you
own can make matters worse, but another worry pointlessly. Each time you say Stop to one
mind back to your breathing, saying the word avoid anything you feel may be dangerous
person can help you put your concerns and of these thoughts it will get easier and the
Relaaax silently to yourself each time you or embarrassing. For example, you may avoid
worries into perspective or help you to deal thought will come back less often.
breathe out. visiting your grandchildren in case they get too
with them.
Go through the list again, this time crossing out noisy or going out with friends in case you cant
Keep doing this for ten minutes. Thats it!
If you do feel overwhelmed, try one of the three all the things you cant do anything about today. keep up. You might even put off doing things
relaxation techniques below. For this technique to work, practise it for ten Tell yourself, I promise I will start worrying about you enjoy, like going out, going for a drive in
minutes once or twice every day and follow them again tomorrow morning at 9 oclock. It is the country or even going on holiday.
The Deep relaxation technique
these rules: quite safe to leave all these things until tomorrow.
You can buy relaxation tapes in most good book As long as youre sure that its safe for you to
If they come back into your mind, tell them to
shops. They can help get your adrenaline level D ont worry about whether you are succeeding. do the things youd like to do, it is better to make
Stop until tomorrow.
right down in some cases lower than it is when Dont hold your breath. yourself do them, even if you dread them. Doing
you sleep. They may also help with shortness of Dont get angry when your mind wanders Then look at what is left on your list. This should the things you like and enjoy, can help you to
breath and fatigue. It usually takes six weeks which it will do very quickly. It doesnt matter only be things you can do something about fight stress. Its just the adrenaline that makes
practice or more before deep relaxation starts at all. If you get angry, it wont work. today. Count them and then give them all a you feel like putting them off. The more you avoid
working. Dont worry if nothing seems to be happening number, starting with 1 for the most important. doing things, the more adrenaline your body will
right away. Thats normal. If you worry about Now you have a plan. You know what you have to produce at the thought of doing them. If you put
Attending classes in relaxation, meditation or
this, it wont work. do and the order in which you have to do them. them off, you may feel relieved but it then
yoga can also get your adrenaline levels right
Dont worry about how often you get Work through the items on your list in a calm and becomes even harder to do them the next time.
down. Find out if there are any in your area.
distracted everyone does. It takes weeks controlled way. When you feel tired, stop. You have less fun and slowly lose control over
Once you find something that works for you, of practice to get good at this. your life.
For the Worry list method to work, you need to
practise it for 20 minutes every day.
In time you will notice that you are becoming write the things down. Do this each day and you
The Relaaax technique more relaxed and the symptoms of stress trouble will soon start to gain control and become good

5 Getting help
This is a simple but effective way of relaxing you less and less. When you get good at this at stopping worries in their tracks.

and information
deeply and turning off stress. It has been proved technique, you can use it whenever you need
to reduce the heart rate and have a number to get some peace and relief. After a while, just
of other health benefits. saying Relaaax will make you feel calm.

68 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 69

Panic attacks What can help? For instance, if you Ask yourself:
When your adrenaline level hits the top you
experience panic. (See page 67.) All of the
Sometimes it is better to smile and join in, even find yourself
if it doesnt feel the same any more and its an
symptoms of stress are at their maximum.
effort and not a pleasure. Jumping to conclusions
Some people feel like theyre going to collapse.
The following things have been shown to help Something happens. Is my carer busy? Yes. Does he usually say
Although panic attacks can be very frightening
when you feel low and sad: You make a negative interpretation. Later and then help me in his own time? Yes.
at the time, they are not harmful to the heart and
So nothing new there then. Ill ask him how he
dont last long. But if youre concerned about Plan something to look forward to every day. Example:
feels and if hes sick of me.
them, talk to your GP. He or she may be able to Make yourself do things that used to be fun, You ask your carer to do something for you and
refer you to someone who can help. even if they arent just now. If you keep going, he says Ill do it later. Im busy. You think Hes
you may well start to enjoy yourself again. sick of me. Im getting him down. He cant be
Are you feeling really down? Most spells of low spirits go after a few months
bothered with me now Im ill. He doesnt love
me any more.
but only if you keep going.
Very few people are left unmoved by serious
illness. It is natural to feel sad, angry, sorry for
yourself and lonely at times. If you are feeling
Dealing with negative Over-generalising

really down, read the next few pages. thoughts One person does something.
You apply it to everyone.
Did that person just not see me when we passed
in the street? Yes. So is it true that he is avoiding
me? No. Have I upset him? No. Is it true he
Ive always enjoyed company but When you are feeling low, your thoughts can Example:
doesnt like me? No. Does everyone ignore me?
become negative and distorted. You may Someone you used to work with passes you in
now I cant be bothered. I just want find yourself jumping to conclusions, over- the street without speaking to you. You think
No. There you go then!
people to leave me alone. generalising or exaggerating the negative. He doesnt want to speak to me anymore. Hes
It is a natural part of being ill to withdraw from Without realising it, you can get caught up avoiding me. Ive really upset him. He doesnt like
others. When you are fed up or have a problem, it in a cycle of constant pessimism. me. No-one likes me.
can be painful to be with people who seem to be
happy and have no difficulties. Time on your own What can help? Exaggerating the negative
can be very helpful but, in the longer run, being
Each time you have a negative thought, give A setback happens. Has my blood pressure been up before? Yes.
alone and giving up company can leave you
yourself a reality check by asking yourself: You imagine a disaster. Did it go back down again? Yes. Well then,
feeling isolated and deprived of moral support.
Is there any evidence for that gloomy thought? maybe it will this time.
You see the nurse and she says, Your blood
pressure has gone up a bit. You think, Thats it.
None of these medications are working. If my
blood pressure goes up, it means Ill have a
heart attack. I wont survive that.

5 Getting help
and information
Checking out the evidence will help you to perspective. You might even find that
separate the fears from the facts. It will help things are better or more manageable
to put your negative thoughts into proper than you thought.

70 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 71

Depression I just keep thinking theres no point. How can you tell if youre depressed? If you answered Yes to most of these questions,
you may be suffering from depression.
It can be difficult to recognise if you are Answer Yes or No to these questions.
If you have constant negative thoughts, your (However, remember that your heart failure
depressed. It is often a slow process that affects
mood never rises or you are tearful a lot of the 1  Have you lost your appetite for food, or fun or another illness might cause some of these
the way you see your life and everything around
time, you may be depressed. or seeing people? symptoms. Some can even be a side effect
you. You might feel worthless and believe that
of your medication.)
you dont deserve help, or that getting help is 2  Have you been unable to cheer up by
What is depression? pointless. thinking of something or doing something If you answered Yes to most of these questions,
Depression is not just feeling sad or feeling low. It that used to make you feel good? and you also notice the following, then you may
You may also feel that you should pull yourself
is an illness, caused by an imbalance of chemicals be in a major depression:
together or snap out of it, but depression is not 3 Have you lost all interest in your appearance?
in the brain. It is not a sign of weakness any more something you have brought on yourself and Your thoughts, speech and actions have
than catching a cold is. 4  Have you felt that everything is hopeless or
you are not to blame. all become very slowed down.
Depression can affect anyone. One in six of us will Almost all of your life seems unbearable.
experience depression at some time in our lives. What can help? 5  Have you been tearful all the time?
It can happen as a result of serious illness or life You have a strong temptation to
Depression is a common, treatable illness. If you 6 Have you thought life isnt worth living?
stresses such as a bereavement, job loss or family commit suicide.
think that you might be depressed or if someone 7  Have you felt guilty about things even when
crisis. Or it can happen unexpectedly for no You have been making plans to
suggests that you might benefit from getting you have done nothing wrong?
apparent reason. commit suicide.
help, speak to your GP or nurse who will know
But depression can be successfully treated and the best way to help you. 8  Have you known you could manage to do
If you ticked either of these last two
the majority of people with depression will make something but thought it seemed too difficult
symptoms you must speak to your GP.
a full recovery. to try?
If you feel you cant, please phone the
9 Have you felt subdued? Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.
10 Have you had trouble sleeping? You may not believe it now, but if you talk
to someone it can make you feel much better.

5 Getting help
and information
72 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 73
Managing the changing relationships

You may find that your relationships with your You may feel guilty that you cant do as much I often get annoyed with my partner. Children also need to know what your condition
family, friends or colleagues have changed. Your as you used to, or because you have to rely on means, so talk to them about it and explain
You may sometimes feel angry and frustrated
own role at home or at work may have changed others to do things for you. It is perfectly normal why you may not always be able to do everything
if your partner has to do more for you than they
too. All this can be frustrating. To manage the to feel this way, but it is important to accept the with them even if youd like to. They will enjoy
used to, or if you feel that your partner is fussing
changing relationships, it helps to be honest physical limitations of your condition. As we have the attention you give them and appreciate
over you or being over-protective. It may be that
and realistic in your expectations both of said on page 52, if you force yourself to soldier the time that you do spend with them. Being
they just want to care for you and feel that they
others, and yourself. on you may end up in an ever-increasing cycle honest with them about your condition, and
are doing something helpful. Confusion and
of exhaustion. Its better to set realistic goals for giving older children responsibilities in the home,
First understand any limitations or changes you frustration often arise because each of you is
what you can achieve. will help reassure them that they are still very
are experiencing due to your condition. This will unclear about what you need help with. Take
much involved in your life and that their support
help you to look realistically at your everyday life Living with a long-term condition requires time to talk to each other about your roles.
makes a difference.
and responsibilities. What can you continue to even stronger communication skills. You need
If you feel that your relationship with your
do and what do you need help with? You need to to know what your partner, carer and family
lay down the ground rules and manage peoples are feeling and they need to know what you
partner is suffering, it may help to ask for some I feel angry and frustrated that I am no
relationship counselling. Either ask your GP to
expectations, so that they can understand what are feeling. Keep the lines of communication
refer you for some counselling, or phone the
longer the breadwinner in the family.
you need from them in terms of physical help or open and honest.
organisation Relate (see page 100 for their If you are no longer able to work, you may feel
emotional support. Why not use the goal-setting
contact details). that you have lost your role as breadwinner in
or activity plan methods (pages 53-56) with your
the family. Feeling that you have burdened
family, friends or carer, and together work out
the best way of carrying out your responsibilities I feel frustrated that I cant play with your partner with earning the money as well
as looking after you and the home can lead to
and activities? my children or grandchildren as much feelings of depression and lack of self-worth.
as I used to. Talk to your partner about how you can take on
Although you may not be able to play games a different role or responsibility. This will ensure
like football or tennis with your children or that you are still pulling your weight and will
Oh yes, you do rely on your wife a Some family members keep grandchildren, there are a lot of other games help your self-esteem.
lot, yes. I do now. Ive never been mentioning my limits and needs and activities that dont require as much physical See if you can manage reduced hours at work,
one to rely on anybody as such but when even I have forgotten I have effort. For example, arts and crafts, board games, or if there is another type of employment that
reading stories or even taking them with you on
you do rely on your wife a lot now. a heart condition! I know they care your daily walk, are all activities that young children
you can do. If you would like advice on finance,
including advice on benefits and allowances,
but sometimes I dont want to be enjoy. Older children may enjoy watching a DVD contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. See
labelled the ill person. On the or video with you or playing cards. also Financial worries on page 79.
opposite side of the spectrum,
work colleagues and friends judge
me on how well I look and
occasionally expect too much!

5 Getting help
and information
74 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 75

Focus on the positive Tips to help you cope with My partner and I never seem to get I just dont have any desire for it
the changing relationships round to making love any more. any more.
By focusing on the positive aspects of your
life, you can begin to accept the changes Recognise and accept that you may not You or your partner may be frightened that There may be many reasons why your desire for
that happen: be able to do everything that you want an active sexual life may be harmful. This is sexual activity becomes affected. These include:
common in couples where one partner has a
I f you are no longer able to work, you may to, and focus on what you can do s ide effects caused by your medicines in
heart problem. But there is no reason why you
be able to spend more time with your partner rather than what you cant. should not have a normal sexual relationship
particular, beta-blockers may cause impotence
or carer, friends, children or grandchildren. tiredness or fear of overexerting yourself
Learn to adapt and modify your if you manage your symptoms well.
Your family may appreciate you more and a change in the way you express your feelings
you may see more of them. activities so that you can still take part Making love makes you feel good and brings as you get older there may be less of a focus
Your relationship with your partner or carer in fulfilling activities with your family or you closer physically and emotionally to your on sexual intercourse
may become stronger. friends. partner. There are many ways that you can be mood swings or depression
intimate without physical exertion if you dont resentment or anger towards your partner.
Although you may be frustrated about the Learn as much as possible about your actually want to have sexual intercourse. Talk
changes caused by your symptoms at first, once Talk to your partner about your concerns and
condition and take an active role in to your partner about what you feel is most
feelings. Listen to what you both need and try
you have identified a routine for your treatment comfortable for you.
and everyday life, you will be able to enjoy the
your treatment. This will help you to different ways of showing your feelings. There
time that you spend with your partner, family take some control of your situation. If you have an ICD (implantable cardioverter are plenty of ways of sharing intimacy that dont
and friends. You might find that your different defibrillator) you may be worried that sexual necessarily involve sexual intercourse. See our
Include your carer as much as possible activity will initiate a shock. It is perfectly safe tips on Sex and heart disease on our website
relationships are strengthened and that you
have a different perspective on life.
so that he or she knows what your to have sex if you have an ICD. For further
needs are and is able to work with you. information see our booklet ICDs (implantable
cardioverter defibrillators) and our booklets on
Discuss how you feel with your carer cardiomyopathies from the Inherited heart
I value the people in my life even and family, and listen to them when conditions series (see pages 102-103).
more than I used to. they tell you how they feel.
If you feel you need to talk to others
in the same situation, join a support
group. For information on how
to find one locally, see page 101.

5 Getting help
and information
76 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 77
Financial worries

Im having problems with my erection. One clue that can help you decide whether I am worried about how I am going What is the carers allowance?
the problem is caused by the medication or a to cope financially.
There can be many reasons for this. Weve already The carers allowance is a taxable benefit
diminished blood supply or a result of anxiety,
mentioned anxiety about your heart, but the If you have had to reduce your hours, change available for informal carers. (An informal carer
is if you still have morning erections. If you have
cause of the problem could also be worrying your job or give up work altogether and you is someone who provides care to another person
morning erections but have problems when
about the erection and your performance. are facing financial problems, it can be very and is not paid to do it. This could be a spouse,
you want to have sexual intercourse, then it
distressing. You might feel that you are letting a friend or a relative).
Another problem is a poor blood supply. Your is probably anxiety causing the problem, rather
erection is caused by large blood vessels in the than the blood supply or the medication. your family down, but it is not your fault. You You can find out if you are eligible for the
penis filling with blood. This is what makes the may be concerned about paying a mortgage. allowance from:
Men have a rush of hormones in the early There are benefits in place that can help to
penis hard. As you know, in heart failure there
morning. You may find it easier to get and support you and your family. In England, Scotland and Wales:
may be a reduced supply of blood to all parts
keep an erection in the morning, so this may
of your body. Carers Allowance Unit, Palatine House,
be a good time to have sex, instead of at night.
Some types of medication can cause problems
What state benefits are available? Lancaster Road, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 1HB
with erections. Diuretics, beta-blockers and Can I use Viagra? The benefits system can be complicated, so you Phone: 0845 608 4321
anti-arrhythmic drugs can all have this effect. should get advice about what you are entitled to.
Be sure to ask your doctor or GP first before you In Northern Ireland, call the Benefits
Your doctor or GP may be able to change these Remember that this includes entitlement to help
take Viagra as it may not be safe for you to take Enquiry Line: 0800 220 674
to help. in the house or childminding facilities as well as
it with your other medication. nursery places.
For information on state benefits income
support, housing benefit, family credit, disability
living and carers allowances, pensions and so on
contact your local Social Security office. They
will be able to advise you or put you in touch
with relevant services. If you are not sure how to
contact your local Social Security office, contact
the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
You can also find out information about benefits
and allowances at your local Citizens Advice
Bureau or from the website.
Contact details for the Department for Work and
Pensions, Citizens Advice Bureau and other useful
organisations can be found in Financial help on
page 100.
Some benefits can be claimed quickly under
special rules by people who have been deemed

5 Getting help
to be in the last six months of life see page 81.

and information
78 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 79
Facing severe illness

You may find that there are times when your What about Meals on Wheels? My symptoms are so bad that I cant Who provides palliative
symptoms become severe, because you have
If you have difficulty cooking meals for yourself, get out of the house. or end of life care?
caught a cold or become unwell for another
your council can deliver ready-made meals to If it is no longer possible for you to get out and Your GP or heart failure nurse can meet many of
reason. When this happens, its important that
your home. This service is sometimes known as about on your own, here are some suggestions your needs as you reach the end of your life, and
you see your doctor so that he or she can assess
Meals on Wheels. See for that may help: should make sure that these aspects of your care
your condition and make sure that your heart
more information. are addressed right from when you are first
failure is under control. Your doctor may tell you U se a wheelchair so that you can still
that where you had, say, class 2 heart failure, diagnosed.
get out with your family and friends.
you now have class 3 (see page 7 for more What if my doctor doesnt have the Ask your doctor for a prescription for However, your GP or nurse might suggest the
information). When you recover from your period time to talk to me about everything oxygen if you get very breathless. involvement of a specialist palliative care team for
of being unwell, you may find that you return I want to know? Have plenty of rest periods in the day. their expert advice especially if you have
to the class of heart failure that you had before. Watch your fluid levels very carefully complex symptoms or support needs. Palliative
Most doctors, GPs and nurses have a limited time
However, heart failure is a progressive disease and tell your GP or nurse if you have care teams provide care and support in a hospice,
they can spend with each patient, but you can
and there may be a time when your condition swelling that you cant control. hospital, care home or your own home and will
make the most of this time. For tips on how to
gets worse despite your treatment. Coping Ask your heart failure nurse or palliative work alongside your GP and/or nurse.
do so, see Talking to your doctor, GP or nurse
with the effects of advanced heart failure can care team for tips on how to cope.
on page 91. Ask your GP or heart failure nurse any questions
be difficult. If you are unable to get about and you have about palliative and end of life care and
do things, you may find that you are dwelling You can also get further information from the What is palliative and end of life care? the services available in your area.
on things and worrying more. Try to focus on useful organisations listed on pages 99-101.
Palliative care is the holistic care of people with
what you can do rather than what you can no
longer do. Im scared of being on my own if an advanced illness which cannot be cured. By What about financial and other help?
holistic we mean it deals with the whole person
something happens. Although most people with heart failure
Remember that you dont have to manage alone. rather than just one aspect of care. It includes the
experience a gradual progression of their
Here we explain how you can get support with Talking this through with family, friends or carers management of physical symptoms such as
condition, occasionally it can come on
the issues that may arise when your condition is helps. Decide on a plan for contacting someone breathlessness and discomfort, as well as
suddenly and despite treatment there is little
advanced. if you feel you need help. emotional, spiritual and social support. Its goal is
improvement. If this happens, and your doctor
to help you and your family achieve the best
If you live on your own, talk to your doctor or says that you may be facing the last six months
I cant manage at home. quality of life possible.
nurse about home care services. You might not of your life, you may be entitled to quickly
How can I get help? want or need assistance at home on a regular End of life care is support forpeople who are claim an Attendance Allowance or Disability
basis but it can be reassuring to have contact approaching death. It helps themto live as well Living Allowance under special rules. For more
Talk to your GP or nurse, or contact your local
details for emergencies. Ask about community as possible until they die, and to die with dignity. information contact the organisations listed
social services department at your local authority.
alarm services which can be arranged in case It also includes support fortheir family and carers. under Financial help on page 100. When
They will be able to advise on a range of services
you should ever need help urgently. applying for one these benefits you will need
available in your area including home care, Your GP and heart failure nurse, as well as
to send in a short medical report called a DS1500
housing issues, mobility schemes (schemes that professionals specifically working in palliative
form about your condition. Ask your GP or nurse
provide travel opportunities to help you stay care, can help you think about, discuss and plan
for this report.
independent), and so on. for the last months, weeks and days of life. This

5 Getting help
helps make sure your wishes are met and that Also, there are a number of organisations that

and information
you receive the care youd like and not treatments can offer practical and emotional support with
you want to avoid. It helps make your family and end-of-life issues for patients, families and their
friends aware of your preferences and offers them carers (see pages 99-101).
support too. We talk more about this in the
Planning for the future section.

80 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 81

Planning for the future

Im frightened of dying. What if I dont want any When facing long-term or severe illness, its What kinds of decisions do I need to
natural to look at the future and think what if?
Severe symptoms, particularly having difficulty more treatment? For example, you might ask yourself questions
breathing, can be very frightening. You may It is very important that you have some control like what if my condition worsens and I am too You should start thinking about:
believe, or you may have been told, that you over your treatment in the later stages of your unwell to let people know my wishes? or what where you would like to be cared for - in your
are approaching the end of your life. Hearing illness. You should discuss the treatment you will happen to my family if Im not around to care own home or somewhere else - and the sort
this can cause you and your family and friends want or when you want to stop it with your GP for them? of care you would like if you become unable
to experience many different emotions, such as or heart failure nurse or doctor. You should try
Although it can seem difficult at first, making to make that decision in the future. This is a
shock, anger or sadness. and have these discussions when youre feeling
plans for the future and sorting out practical process known as advance care planning and
If you can, try to talk to someone about your well, not only when youre feeling unwell, as it involves making an advance statement about
matters such as your will, finances and sources
feelings. Although it might feel difficult to start can be difficult to make a decision when youre your health and social care which can include
of support can be a very positive thing to do.
with, talking does help. If youre finding it tricky tired, breathless or anxious. stating your preferred place of care
Planning for tomorrow can help address some
to talk to your family or friends, ask your GP or There will be many options, so you need to of the worries or questions that are at the back any specific treatments youd like to refuse and
nurse to help and visit discuss your wishes with your partner, family or of your mind. Once theyre out of the way, how to make an advance decision about this
for advice on how you can begin these friends. Include them in your conversations and planning ahead lets you get on with living as whether you would like to donate your organs
conversations. make sure that they know your wishes so that well as you can for as long as you can. Your family to help someone after your death
You can also make practical plans to help you they can help you in the future. You might find or friends will also be more confident in knowing
if you have an implanted device such as an
cope in the future and to give you peace of it easier to talk to your GP or nurse on your own exactly what you do and dont want to happen.
ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator),
mind. We look at this more in the next section, first and then to your family or friends. Sharing
when would be an appropriate time to
Planning for the future. difficult decisions will help your relationship and When should I plan? deactivate its shock component to avoid
understanding of each other.
Its a good idea to start thinking about the unnecessary discomfort.
If you decide you dont want to receive particular situations that might arise and how you and
treatments, you should write this down. In your family or carer would like them to be dealt
England and Wales the legal term for this is an with as soon as you feel comfortable doing this.
advance decision to refuse treatment and in By having these conversations and making
Scotland it is called an advance directive. decisions while you are relatively well, you can
Northern Ireland currently has no legal help make sure that your wishes are taken into
equivalent. You may have heard about a living account. Its best that you make these decisions
will but this is not a recognised legal term. We while you have the ability or mental capacity
explain more about advance decisions and to make them for yourself. Your wishes will then
directives on page 84. be clear if, at some time in the future, you lose
the mental capacity to make these kinds of
decisions - for example if you are no longer able
to understand the information provided about
your treatment. The Mental Capacity Act 2005
(England and Wales) and the Adults with

5 Getting help
Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 set out guidelines

and information
as to when a person may not be able to make
a decision, and are designed to protect you in
this situation.

82 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 83

What is an advance statement? What is an advance decision? What is a Do Not Attempt When might I have a DNAR order?
An advance statement is a document that An advance decision specifically applies when Resuscitation order? You may feel that even if there is a good chance
outlines your wishes about the care you would you want to refuse medical treatments. You may A Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) order is that an attempt at resuscitation would be
and would not like in the future, in case there is decide that in some or all circumstances in the a specific kind of advance decision or directive. successful and restore you to a reasonable quality
a time when you are unable to express your future you dont want certain treatments. For It is an instruction that you are not to be of life, you would prefer to be allowed the option
wishes and views yourself. It can also be used to example, you may not want antibiotics for a chest resuscitated if you stop breathing or your heart of natural death. It is your right to refuse
nominate who you would like to be consulted if infection or you may not want professionals to stops beating.It does not mean do not treat. resuscitation treatment that would usually be
someone else has to make a decision about your attempt to resuscitate your heart and lungs if It means only that if you stop breathing or your offered to you in these circumstances.
treatment. It can cover social and personal care they stop. heart stops beating, you will not be resuscitated. There may come a time when your illness means
as well as medical care. You will still get other treatments if you need
An advance decision (in England & Wales) or an that an attempt at resuscitation may not restart
If you want to make an advance statement you advance directive (in Scotland) is a document them - for example, treatment with antibiotics, your breathing and your heart, and/or if it did,
should discuss your options with your GP, heart prepared by a mentally competent adult that sets treatment for discomfort or pain, transfusions, there would be a real risk that your brain or
failure nurse or doctor and anyone else looking out their specific wish to refuse some or all forms dialysis or use of a ventilator. However, you can kidneys would be damaged. In these
after you. You should review your advance of medical treatment in the event of serious also refuse those treatments through an advance circumstances, your wishes would be sought on
statements from time to time to make sure they illness and impending death. It is intended to decision if you want to. resuscitation and if you didnt wish to take this
still reflect what you want. Remember you can make your wishes about treatment known and it risk, then a DNAR order would be put in place.
always change your mind if you want to, while would only be used if you are too ill to speak for
If your illness becomes very severe, there may be
you have the mental capacity to do this. yourself at the time. This means that your family
no realistic chance of successful recovery from
or friends do not have to make difficult decisions
An advance statement can help the professionals your heart or breathing stopping. Heart and lung
on your behalf later on.
looking after you to understand what your wishes resuscitation would therefore not be offered and
are, but it does not bind them to a particular Preparing an advance decision or directive can a DNAR order would be put in place. Other
course of action. also be an opportunity to discuss difficult issues treatments without a realistic chance of success,
with your GP, heart failure nurse and family and such as surgery, would also not be offered at this
friends. If youre worried about having these stage and an overall discussion about your care
conversations, try to talk to your GP or nurse and the treatments that could be useful for you
first or visit for help would be explained. Some people wish to talk
and advice. about this in detail and others do not. You
should let your team know if you want them to
explain which treatments are not suitable for you
at this stage.

5 Getting help
and information
84 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 85
How is an advance statement different How do I make an advance decision What should I do once the Should I make a will?
from an advance decision? to refuse treatment? advance statement or advance Everyone should have a will, not just those facing
An advance statement covers the type of care An advance decision should be written down and decision is written? advanced illness. Making a will can bring you
you would and wouldnt like to receive and where include: peace of mind as you know what will happen to
Your GP, heart failure nurse or doctor and other
you would like to be cared for. It will be used to your name and address your assets when you die. Making a will is very
relevant health professionals should be made
inform your care, but does not legally bind health easy. You can do it through a solicitor for a small
your signature aware of your advance statement or advance
professionals to a particular course of action. cost or, if its a very straightforward will, you can
the date decision and an up-to-date copy should be kept
do it yourself. There are plenty of guides available
An advance decision applies specifically to in your medical records and, if appropriate, in
the name and signature of a witness (this to help you do this, from organisations such as
medical treatments. It is legally binding in the person should not be a spouse, partner, relative your hospital notes. It should also be shared with
the Citizens Advice Bureau and Age UK.
same way that refusing treatment would be if or anyone who stands to benefit from your will) teams involved in your care outside of normal
you had mental capacity. The law about advance GP surgery hours, such as the out of hours and Youll also need to think about financial issues
a clear statement of your wishes, specifying the ambulance teams. In case it is not, it is a good like insurance or pensions so you may wish to
decisions is set out in the Mental Capacity Act
treatment you wish to refuse and whether you idea to keep a copy of the document(s) to hand. seek independent financial advice.
2005 which covers England and Wales and the
wish to refuse it in all or just certain You should also make your friends and family
Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 in
circumstances. If the treatment could
Scotland. If you have made an advance decision, potentially prolong your life, include a
aware of your advance statement or advance What about my funeral?
your doctor and other health professionals must decision.
statement saying that you wish to refuse it Some people find it useful to talk about and plan
comply with it. even if this puts your life at risk as a result their funeral. This might include telling your
t he name, address and phone number of a family or friends your preferences for cremation
nominated person to be consulted if you are or burial and even planning the details. Talking
unable to make a decision about your to family and friends about this can ensure your
treatment (optional). funeral reflects your life and it can make a difficult
time easier for your loved ones. You might want
You dont have to involve a solicitor in writing an to contact a funeral director for advice - see page
advance decision, but it is a good idea for you
101 for details of organisations who can help.
and your family to discuss your wishes with your
GP or nurse. They can explain the advantages and
disadvantages of choosing or refusing certain
treatments and the impact your wishes will have
on the course of your illness. Your GP or nurse will
then be able to confirm that you were mentally
competent at the time of writing the document.
You can find a template advance decision
document and supporting information at

5 Getting help
and information
86 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 87
Looking forward, there are plenty of things
that can help you get the best of everyday life, Getting help
and information
right now:

Think about all the useful tips in this

guide about taking positive action
and managing your symptoms. Pick
a couple and put them into practice,
and use the Personal record at the back
to keep track of your symptoms and
stay in control.
There are plenty of other relevant
publications or DVDs available from
the BHF or other organisations.
Many of these are free of charge.
We list some titles and details on
how to obtain them on pages 102-103.
Your family or carer can be an
enormous source of practical and
emotional support. Talk with them
openly and honestly about your
feelings. Share this guide with them,
especially the chapter Help for carers
on pages 92-98.
And please remember that you,
and your family or carer, never have
to cope alone. In addition to your GP,
doctor and nurse, there are many
organisations that can offer valuable
help and support. We list these on
pages 99-101.

5 Getting help
and information
Now please use the next section to help you
get further help and support.

88 British Heart Foundation

Talking to your doctor, GP or nurse

Talking to your doctor, GP or nurse 91 I would like more information from I often forget what Ive been told.
my doctor or GP. Its not unusual for us to forget what we have

Help for carers 92 Information about your heart failure is essential

if you are to understand how to manage your
been told, especially if we are slightly nervous
or worried. There is only so much we can take
symptoms and treatment. If theres something in at any one time. Our tips below will help you
keep track of what youve been told. Doctors,
Useful organisations 99 you dont understand, ask your doctor or GP.
Before you go for your appointment, write down GPs and nurses expect to have to repeat things,
a list of questions about all the things you want but you need to tell them which things.
to know about. If you think you wont remember
Useful publications and DVDs 102 the answers, make notes of the answers or ask
your doctor or GP to write things down for you.
Tips on talking to your doctor,
What to do in an emergency 104 I dont always understand what GP or nurse
Ive been told.
Before you visit your doctor, GP or
Index 106 It is very important to understand what your
doctor, GP or nurse is telling you. Medical nurse, think about why you are going
information can be complicated, so if theres to see them and what you would like
anything you dont understand, dont be shy to talk about.
to ask them to repeat it or to explain it in
laymans terms. Make notes on how you are feeling
for about a week before your
There never seems to be enough time appointment.
to talk about things. Write down all of your concerns.
Many people with heart failure say that this is If you end up with a long list, be
a very big problem. There never seems to be realistic and decide which ones are
enough time to talk about all the things that the most pressing, and tell your doctor,
concern you. There are certain things that you GP or nurse about these right at the
can do to make the most of your time with your
doctor, GP or nurse. See our tips on the right.
beginning of your visit.
Let them know that there are other
things you want to talk about and
The Heart Failure Nurses have arrange when to discuss these.
often been the most practical and If you have trouble hearing, or if
understanding. you get very nervous, take someone
with you and ask them to write
things down.

An everyday guide to living with heart failure 91

Help for carers

When someone is diagnosed with heart failure, Striking the right balance If you think that they are doing too much, talk What if they dont seem to want
it affects everyone in the family and those it over and suggest other things that they can to do anything for themselves?
involved in the care of that person. Expectations At each stage of their condition, the person you do that arent so tiring. If you still have concerns,
and relationships will change and it can be hard are caring for will need different levels of care discuss them with the heart failure nurse or GP. It may be that the person you are caring for has
to know what to do for the best. Whether you are and support. There will be good and bad days They will be able to be objective and let you lost their self-confidence. Perhaps they have been
the partner, relative, friend or carer of the person for them and for you, too. You need to be able know if you are being overprotective. unwell recently or their symptoms have changed.
who has been diagnosed, this chapter has been to let them manage their condition, but also tell Give them time and space to adjust and get back
While the nurse or GP may be happy to give on their feet. Gently encourage them to do things
written to help you. you when they need help. Of course there will
you tips and advice, they are not able to share for themselves and for you. Sometimes people
be times when they are trying to do too much
information about the patient unless they have are more encouraged if you ask them to do jobs
and you might have to intervene (see The
permission from them to do so. You should for you or other people.
overactivity-rest cycle on page 52). Knowing
to talk to your partner or the person you are
how to do this without taking away their Try to focus on what is important and not on the
caring for, about what information about their
Understanding heart failure independence can be tricky.
condition they are happy for the GP or nurse little things. If they are neglecting themselves, try
inviting someone around or suggesting an outing
to share with you.
Understanding the condition and how it affects I am worried that I am going this can motivate them to make an effort with
Making sure that the person you are caring their appearance. We all have good and bad days
your partner or the person you are caring for, will to be overprotective. for is in control of their life and condition can:
help you to deal with the inevitable ups and and like things to look forward to.
It is natural to want to help the person with
downs that you may face. help them to feel positive about their situation There are times, however, when you may be
heart failure as much as possible, but being
reduce their feelings of being a burden or concerned that they are depressed. Depression
This guide has been designed to help the person overprotective may frustrate them or encourage
dependent on you can be a serious condition, but once diagnosed
with heart failure to manage their symptoms and them to be too dependent on you.
allow you to do something else while they it can be treated successfully. If you are worried,
have a good quality of life. If you have time, we
The key is to make sure that you talk to each are managing themselves. talk to the heart failure nurse or GP for support
recommend that you have a look at the rest of
other about how you feel and what boundaries and advice. (See page 72 for more information
the guide. It will help you to understand how
need to be set. Finding the right balance for on depression.)
they cope and what you can do to support them.
them to live a normal life as possible will mean
You will find more information in our booklet that both they and you will feel happier and more
Living with heart failure (see page 102). Read this in control of your lives. Remember that you have Thats one thing you have to
if youd like a greater understanding of the a life and other responsibilities too. be very aware of that you can
condition, its causes and treatment.
Ask them what they feel they can do and if actually make people worse by
there are any areas that they particularly need running around after them and
help with. It may mean organising a few people
on a rota basis to do the shopping, organise
doing too much ... You just make
meals, collect the children or stay with them them worse ... you will make
while the person is resting. Let them talk to you them an invalid eventually.
about what they want to do.

92 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 93

Coping with stress What can I do about it? Having a social life It might also be a good idea for your partner
to join a support group. That way they can meet
There are many things that you can do to cope
Why do I feel stressed? with stress: I feel isolated. others in the same situation as them. See page 101
for details of how to find a local support group.
You will probably be worried about the health of R ecognise that you cant do everything. You are Looking after yourself is as important as caring
the person youre caring for, and about the future. not a failure if you have to ask for help. for your partner or relative. Feeling isolated is
You may also be overwhelmed about the amount a common feeling. You may feel that, although I feel guilty about wanting to have
Try and anticipate when you might need
of information you have to deal with. All these to ask for more help for example, if you there is support and help for the person who a social life.
factors can lead to you feeling very anxious and have other responsibilities like looking after is unwell, no-one seems to understand how
You should not feel guilty about wanting a life
under a lot of stress. The symptoms are the same children or going to work. you feel.
outside of caring for your partner. Youre not
as the ones we described on page 64. Change your expectations for yourself. You may have become so focused on your carer being selfish. By taking a break from caring you
For example, let the housework go more responsibilities that your friends and hobbies will feel more relaxed and better able to cope
than you would like to. have been ignored. with the demands of caring.
Look after yourself. Try to eat healthily
and take regular exercise. Talk to your friends and family about your
Do some relaxation exercises. Try the feelings and ask them for help. Dont try and do Helping the person you
ones on pages 68-69, or talk to the nurse everything yourself. If you overdo things, you
may make yourself ill, which wont help in the
are caring for
or your GP about going to local sessions.
Make sure you have time for yourself. long run. You need a break and time to yourself.
What can I do to help the person Im
Speak to the person you are caring for If you need to go out but the person you are
about what you need to do and how caring for needs someone with them, ask a friend
caring for manage their symptoms?
you can best allocate your time. or relative to call round or be available on the The information in this guide will help you
Join a support group for carers. Some phone. Or, contact an organisation called do whats best for him or her. There is plenty
people find this very helpful as it enables Crossroads (see page 99) which may be able to of practical advice on:
them to meet people in the same situation provide someone to sit in for you.
as them, which can very therapeutic. eating healthily (see page 38)
(See next page.) If you are unable to leave your partner or relative getting the right amount of exercise (page 50)
on his or her own for long, you may be able to managing medications (page 19)
arrange respite care where they will be looked recognising and managing symptoms
after in a care home so that you can have a (page 12).
longer break or holiday. Talk to the nurse about
Read though the guide together and work out
arranging this.
how you could help with putting this advice into
practice. For example, you could shop for healthy
I am thinking about joining ingredients and help to prepare meals.
a support group.
For some people that can be a very good idea.
Sometimes talking with other people who are
in the same situation can be very helpful. Talk
to your nurse who will have information on the
support groups in your area.

94 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 95

Warning signs to look If this symptom is new or has got worse, phone Help with caring What happens in a carers assessment?
out for 999 for an ambulance:
There are benefits and services to help you
A social worker will ask you to provide as much
 heavy pressure across the chest, or chest information as possible about what your role as
look after someone with a long-term illness.
Are there any warning signs that pain, or both.
These may be in the form of financial or practical
a carer involves. This helps them work out what
Difficulty in breathing. assistance you may be eligible for.
I should look out for? assistance. We discuss some of them below.
Read the section What to do in an emergency For a week or so before the assessment, it might
If the person youre caring for is ever in
severe distress, is unable to breathe properly,
on page 104 now, so that you know what to do. What is the carers allowance? be a good idea to keep a diary about what your
role as a carer involves. For example:
experiencing severe pains in the chest or has The carers allowance is a taxable benefit
a blackout, dial 999 for an ambulance What if he or she collapses suddenly? available for informal carers. (An informal carer H ow many hours a week do you spend caring,
immediately. If the person youre caring for collapses suddenly, is someone who provides care to another person including at night time? Are you able to leave
call 999 for an ambulance immediately. They and is not paid to do it. It can be a spouse, a the house?
If any of these symptoms are new, call and speak
may have had a cardiac arrest (when the heart friend or a relative.) You will need to have an Do you have any time for yourself?
to the heart failure nurse or doctor or to the GP. If
stops beating). Once you have called 999 you assessment from the social services department How is your health, and how is it affected by
they are very bad or suddenly get worse, call 999
should begin basic emergency life support. We to see if you are eligible (see below). being a carer?
for an ambulance:
explain what to do on page 105. Does your role as a carer impact on any other
Palpitation areas in your life for example your job, other
Memory problems or problems If you would like to do a free, two-hour course in What is a carers assessment? relationships, your hobbies, or your sleep?
with concentration emergency life support skills, contact Heartstart. A carers assessment is a free service that is
You can find their contact details and course
Poor sleep
information on page 100.
carried out by social services to find out your How can I find out if Im eligible for
Slow weight gain needs as a carer. If you look after a friend or
Weight loss relative who cannot manage without your help,
a carers allowance?
If the person youre caring for has requested
Feeling helpless or fed up that in the event of their heart stopping they do you may qualify for a carers assessment. There are quite a few conditions attached to
Problems keeping sexually active. not want measures taken to restart their heart receiving the carers allowance. To find out if
The assessment looks at:
(a Do Not Resuscitate order or DNR), and this is you are eligible, contact:
If any of these symptoms are new or have got
in writing on their medical records, then all you what help you need with caring
worse, you must tell the doctor immediately: In England, Scotland and Wales:
should do is sit with them until the ambulance what help you need to maintain your
Swelling of the feet, ankles or abdomen arrives. For more information about a DNR, own health Carers Allowance Unit, Palatine House,
Sudden weight gain see page 85. other commitments that you have. Lancaster Road, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 1HB
Wheezing or coughing
Phone: 0845 608 4321
Light-headedness or dizziness How do I get a carers assessment?
Fatigue (feeling unusually tired and weak). In Northern Ireland, call the Benefit
You can ask your local social services department Enquiry Line: 0800 220 674
for a carers assessment. Your GP or district nurse
can contact them on your behalf. Or, if you want For more information on financial help available
to contact them directly, you can find their phone to the person you are caring for, see page 79.
number in your local phone book, under the
name of your local authority.

96 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 97

Useful organisations
Tips for carers
Heart failure cannot be cured, but the Participate in any hospital, doctor, GP General information Carers 01257 234 070
symptoms can be controlled to help and nurse appointments or visits, but
prevent it from getting worse. You and the dont dominate the appointment. Work British Heart Carers UK
Foundation (BHF) 20 Dover Street Glasgow office
person youre caring for can work together out beforehand with the person youre Greater London House London SE1 4LX Charles Oakley House
to do this. Talk to each other about the caring for the main issues you would like 180 Hampstead Road 125 West Regent Street
things you both need as individuals. to be covered, and write down the 0808 808 7777
London NW1 7AW Glasgow G2 2SD
answers to any questions that are asked.
Work out with the person youre 0300 330 3311 0141 221 5066
caring for the everyday jobs that they Learn about heart failure and how the (similar cost to 01
Offers advice for carers and
condition is managed. Read through this or 02 numbers)
can do and plan your weekly chores can put carers in touch with Wales office
around each others needs. plan with the person you are caring for one another. Victoria House
so that you can identify the things that Our Heart Helpline is an 250 Cowbridge Road East
Make time for yourself. Dont be afraid to Crossroads Caring for Carers
most concern you and plan how information service for the public Canton
10 Regent Place
ask for help. And, when people and health professionals on Cardiff CF5 1GZ
to deal with them. Rugby
offer help, accept the offer and suggest issues related to heart health.
Warwickshire CV21 2PN 02920 221 788
specific things that they can do. If you have any questions or concerns AntiCoagulation Europe
speak to the doctor, GP or heart 0845 450 0350
PO Box 405
Recognise that it takes time to get used Provides information, support
failure nurse. Bromley BR2 9WP
to change. Both you, and the person Provides practical support
and practical help to carers.
youre caring for, may experience For details of national organisations 020 8289 6875
to carers in the home. Counselling services
for carers, see next page.
changes to daily life and to habits youve Relate British Association for
had for years. The person with heart Premier House Behavioural and Cognitive
failure will need plenty of support Provides information for people
Carolina Court Psychotherapies (BABCP)
who use warfarin or other
and encouragement. Dont be too Lakeside Victoria Buildings
hard on yourself either try to accept Doncaster DN4 5RA 9-13 Silver Street
that change will involve some stress, British Cardiac Patients Bury BL9 0EU
0300 100 1234
especially at the beginning. 0161 797 4484
15 Abbey Road
Bingham Offers relationship
Nottingham NG13 8EE counselling and support.
Provides information on how
01223 846845 The Princess Royal Trust
to find a therapist in your area. for Carers London office British Association
I'm certainly more aware that Unit 14, Bourne Court for Counselling and
Offers support, information and
time's valuable and try to do more resources for people with heart
Southend Road Psychotherapy
with my time, with my family problems and their carers.
Woodford Green BACP House
Essex IG8 8HD 15 St Johns Business Park
I mean its great, its like were Lutterworth LE17 4HB
courting again. Its lovely; it really 0844 800 4361 01455 883 300
is lovely
Northern office Has directories of individual
Suite 6, Oak House counsellors and counselling
High Street organisations throughout Britain.
Chorley PR7 1DW

98 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 99

Relate Financial help Wales Sexual problems British Cardiac Patients Cruse Bereavement Care
0300 100 1234 T John Pathy Association Central office
Citizens Advice Bureau Institute of
13/14 Neptune Court 01223 846845 Cruse Bereavement Care
Offers relationship Head office Psychosexual Medicine
Vanguard Way PO Box 800
counselling and support. Citizens Advice 12 Chandos Street
Cardiff CF24 5PJ Richmond
Myddelton House Cavendish Square
Samaritans Surrey TW9 2RG
115-123 Pentonville Road 029 2043 1555 London W1G 9DR Runs support groups for
08457 90 90 90
London N1 9LZ people with heart problems 0844 477 9400
(24-hour helpline) 020 7580 0631
and their carers and can provide Northern Ireland information on the groups www.crusebereavementcare.
3 Lower Crescent Your local Citizens Advice Bureau in your area.
Belfast BT7 1NR
is listed in the phone directory. Can provide contact details of
Provides confidential non- Hearty Voices A bereavement service for
028 9024 5729 counsellors in your area.
judgemental emotional support Department for Work 020 7554 0426 people of all ages.
for people who are experiencing and Pensions The Sexual Advice Association
The Ruby Care Foundation
feelings of distress or despair. Caxton House Age Concern and Help the Aged Suite 301, Emblem House
A BHF initiative that gives 0870 794 5353
Tothill Street have joined together to create a London Bridge Hospital
Emergency life support individuals the skills, confidence
London SW1H 9DA new charity called Age UK - 27 Tooley Street
(ELS) skills and knowledge to speak out
dedicated to improving later life London SE1 2PR on behalf of heart patients
Heartstart for everyone. A charity dedicated to the care of 020 7486 7262 and carers. the terminally ill, companionship
Palliative care
For information on all aspects of Bereavement services for the dying, and support and
London office
financial management, benefits Dying Matters counselling for the bereaved.
0300 330 3311 Bereavement Advice Centre
and support. For advice and information 0800 634 9494 Funeral services
about the causes of impotence,
Directgov A website to support people in
Edinburgh office and treatments that are National Association thinking about end-of-life
0131 554 6953 available in your area. Offers support and advice on of Funeral Directors
decisions, death and bereavement. For information on a range how to manage practical issues. 618 Warwick Road
Support groups
of benefits including disability Help the Hospices Solihull
A BHF initiative which teaches British Heart Foundation
living and carers allowances. Hospice House British Heart Foundation West Midlands B91 1AA
people the simple skills needed in Heart Helpline
34-44 Britannia Street 0300 330 3311
a life-threatening emergency. Help for the older person 0300 330 3311 0845 230 1343
London WC1X 9JG
(similar cost to 01 or
For information about a free, Age UK
020 7520 8222 In England and Wales there are 02 numbers)
two-hour ELS course in your 0800 169 6565 For information and help about 300 heart groups which
area, visit Information and advice line open Our Helpline offers a with funerals. Provides contact are associated with the BHF. For
between 8am and 7pm. bereavement service to support details of local funeral directors.
On an ELS course you will learn: more information about groups
For information about UK people who have lost someone
how to recognise and deal England in your area, contact the BHF.
and international hospice to heart disease.
with a heart attack Tavis House
and palliative care services.
how to help someone 1-6 Tavistock Square
who is choking London WC1H 9NA National Council for Just a knowledgeable voice at
how to deal with serious Palliative Care
0800 169 87 87
The Fitzpatrick Building the end of the phone or on email is so reassuring.
how to deal with someone 188-194 York Way
who is unconscious and Scotland London N7 9AS
breathing normally Causewayside House
020 7697 1520
how to recognise and deal 160 Causewayside
with someone in a cardiac Edinburgh EH9 1PR
arrest by performing
0845 125 9732
cardiopulmonary Promotes palliative care services
resuscitation (CPR). for all people with life-threatening
and life-limiting conditions.

100 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 101
Useful publications and DVDs

Resources from the BHF Heart Information Series (HIS) Diet and wellbeing: Publications from other
The BHF produces a wide range of educational
A series of booklets for people with different heart
conditions, and their carers, family and friends.
Coping with stress organisations
Cut down on salt
resources that may interest you. Our resources Angina (HIS6)
Cut the saturated fat Chronic heart failure. Management of
are free, but a donation would enable us to help Atrial fibrillation (HIS24)
Eating well chronic heart failure in adults in primary
more people with heart disease. Blood pressure (HIS4)
So you want to lose weight for good and secondary care.
Cardiac rehabilitation (HIS23)
To order the titles on this page, or to find
Caring for someone with a heart condition (HIS20) The Inherited Heart Conditions series: Published by the National Institute for Health
out about our other resources:
Coronary angioplasty (HIS10) and Clinical Excellence.
A rrhythmogenic right
visit Diabetes and your heart (HIS22)
ventricular cardiomyopathy This booklet describes the guidance on heart
call the BHF Orderline on 0870 600 6566, or Having heart surgery (HIS12)
Dilated cardiomyopathy failure that the National Institute for Health
email Heart attack (HIS7)
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and Clinical Excellence (called NICE, for short)
Heart rhythms (HIS14)
You can also download many of our publications Inherited heart rhythm disturbances has issued to the NHS. It tells you what help,
Heart transplantation (HIS13)
from Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome treatment and care people with heart failure
Heart valve disease (HIS11)
can expect.
One step at a time living with heart failure ICDs (Implantable cardioverter defibrillators) (HIS19) Coping with bereavement:
(DVD5) Keep your heart healthy (HIS25) To order a copy, phone the Department of Health
Losing someone to heart disease (for adults)
This DVD has been developed to help you and Living with heart failure (HIS8) Publications orderline on 0300 123 1002 or visit
The small creature (for children)
your family and friends if youve just been Medicines for the heart (HIS17)
diagnosed with heart failure. It features six Pacemakers (HIS15) Other languages:
A guide to living wills
people telling you in their own words how they Peripheral arterial disease (HIS16)
Heart failure Produced by The Patients Association.
felt about being told they had heart failure, how Physical activity and your heart (HIS1)
Taking medicines for your heart
it affected their lives and families and the Primary angioplasty for a heart attack (HIS26) This booklet explains how to make an
adjustments theyve made to help them deal Reducing your blood cholesterol (HIS3) Available in Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, advance directive or living will. To order,
with their symptoms and live a fulfilling life. In a Returning to work with a heart condition (HIS21) Urdu and English. contact the Patients Association via their
separate section, BHF health professionals answer Tests for heart conditions (HIS9) website
some of the questions that may be going or call their helpline on 0845 608 4455.
through your mind.
End of life: The facts
Produced by Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Available to download from
A booklet for people in the final stages
of life, and their carers.

102 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 103
What to do in an emergency

What to do if you think you What to do if someone has a If a person seems to be 25 Rescue breaths
may be having a heart attack heart attack or cardiac arrest unconscious After 30 compressions, open the airway again
by tilting the head back and lifting the chin,
and give two of your own breaths to the person.
You may be having a heart attack: Ideally, everyone should know what to do if 5 A
 pproach with care, making sure that you, the
These are called rescue breaths.
someone has a heart attack or cardiac arrest. person and anybody nearby are safe. To find
5 if you get a crushing pain, or heaviness
About 70% of cardiac arrests happen away out if the person is conscious, gently shake him To do this, pinch the persons nostrils closed using
or tightness in your chest, or
from hospital and there may be nobody else or her, and shout loudly, Are you all right? your index finger and thumb and blow into the
5 if you get a pain in your arm, throat, neck,
around to help. persons mouth. Make sure that no air can leak
jaw, back or stomach. 5 If there is no response, shout for help.
out and that the chest rises and falls with each
5 You may also sweat, or feel light-headed, Heartstart is a BHF initiative to teach the public
5 Y
 ou will need to assess the casualty and take breath.
sick, or short of breath. what to do in a life-threatening emergency.
suitable action. Remember A, B, C Airway,
For more information on how you, your partner Then give another 30 chest compressions and
This is what to do. Breathing, Circulation.
and carer can learn simple and vital life-saving then 2 rescue breaths.
15 Stop what you are doing. skills, see page 100. A Airway
35 Continue CPR
25 Sit to rest. Open the persons airway by tilting the head Keep doing the 30 chest compressions followed
35 Use your GTN spray or tablets. If you have a
If you think someone is back and lifting the chin. by 2 rescue breaths until:
GTN (glyceryl trinitrate) spray or tablets, use having a heart attack B Breathing 5 the casualty shows signs of life, or
it as your doctor or nurse has told you. The pain 5 professional help arrives, or
should ease within a few minutes. If it doesnt, 1 5Get help immediately. 5 you become exhausted.
Look, listen and feel for signs of normal
take your GTN again.
2 5Get the person to sit in a comfortable position. breathing. Only do this for up to 10 seconds. If you are not able, or are not willing, to give
If you do not have a GTN spray, call 999 rescue breaths, give chest compressions only,
3 5Phone 999 for an ambulance. Action: Get help
immediately. as described in step 1. Keep doing the chest
If the person is unconscious, and is either not
compressions at a rate of 100 times a
45 If the pain does not ease within a few minutes breathing or not breathing normally, phone
minute until:
of taking the GTN the second time, call 999 999 for an ambulance.
immediately. 5 the casualty starts breathing, or
5 professional help arrives, or
55 If youre not allergic to aspirin, or there isnt
Action: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) 5 you become exhausted.
a reason that you should not take it, chew
an adult aspirin tablet (300mg) if there is one 15 Chest compression
easily available. If you dont have an aspirin Start chest compression.
next to you, or if you dont know if you should
Place the heel of one hand in the centre of their
take it, just stay resting until the ambulance
chest. Place the heel of your other hand on top
of your first hand and interlock your fingers. Press
Even if your symptoms do not match the ones down firmly and smoothly 30 times. Do this at a
we have described above but you think you rate of about 100 times a minute thats a little
are having a heart attack, call 999 immediately. less than two each second.

104 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 105
Index H O T
healthy eating 38 oedema 11 tests 5
heart attack 14, 104 oil 39, 40 thirst 15, 46
heart valves 5, 6 oily fish 39 thyroid gland disease 6
herbal remedies 22 organisations 99 tiredness 11
high blood pressure 6, 37 overactivity-rest cycle 52 travel 63
A C DS1500 form 81 holidays 57 overprotectiveness 92
abnormal heart rhythms carbohydrates 39 DVT 62-63 see also travel over-the-counter medication 34
unconscious (if a person is) 105
(arrhythmias) 15, 16, 33 cardiac arrest 96, 104 dying 65, 82, 84-87 home care 80
ACE inhibitors 24 cardiac rehabilitation 51, 57 hospice care 81, 100 V
E palliative care 81, 100
activity (physical) 50 cardiomyopathy 6, 14-15, 62 HRT 62 vaccination 61
eating well 17, 38-41 palpitation 16
activity plan 53 carers allowance 79, 97 valves 5, 6
ECG 5 I panic attack 70
advance directive 84 carers assessment 97 vasodilators 32
echocardiogram 5 ICD 77 pessimism (dealing with) 70
advance statement 84 carers, information for 92 vegetables 38
ejection fraction 8 implantable cardioverter physical activity 50
air travel 63 causes of heart failure 6, 11 vegetarian diet 39
electrocardiogram 5 defibrillator 77 pneumonia 61
alcohol 49 chest pain 14, 96, 104 Viagra 32, 78
emergencies 104 income support 79 potassium chloride 33
aldosterone antagonists 27 children (caring for) 51, 62 viral infection 6
emergency life support influenza 61 pregnancy 62
allowances cholesterol 50
100, 104, 105 insurance (for travel) 63 pressure in the chest 14 W
see benefits cholesterol-lowering drugs 30
emotional support 74 protein 39 warfarin 29, 31, 49
alternative medicine 22 classes of heart failure 7 J
employment 61, 66, 75 warning signs of heart attack
anaemia 6 collapse (what to do if ) 96 jabs (for flu and pneumonia) 61 R
exercise 50, 57 104
angina 14 complementary medicine 22 relationships 74-76
L water tablets 23
angiotensin-II receptor concentration 16 F see also counselling, sex
labels on foods 44-45 weighing 47
antagonists 25 congestion 11 fatigue 5, 11-12 relaxation 68
length of life 7 weight 41
antacid 28 contraception 62 fats (in foods) 40 relaxation techniques 68-69
light-headedness 15 slow weight gain 17
antibiotics 30 coronary heart disease fibrates 30 resuscitation 105
living will 82 sudden weight gain 12, 47
anticoagulant card 31 14, 64 fibre 39
low-salt foods 44 S weight loss 17, 41
anticoagulants 31 cough 12, 17 finance 79, 81, 97
lung function tests 5 salt 42-44 wheezing 12
antiplatelets 29 counselling 75 fish 39-40
salt substitutes 42 will
anxiety 64, 69 CPR 105 fitness 50, 52, 57 M
saturated fats 40 living will 82
appointments with your flu jab 61 Meals on Wheels 42, 80
D self-management 18 making a will 87
doctor 91, 98 fluids 42, 46 medication 19
death 82 severe illness 80 work 61, 66, 75
arrhythmias 15, 16, 33 flying alternative/complementary
deep vein thrombosis 62-63 sex 17, 77 worry 64, 69
ascites 11, 42 see air travel 22
defibrillator 77 shortness of breath 5, 7, 11, 12
aspirin 29, 104 food labels 44-45 list of 20 X
depression 72 side effects of medication 22
assessment food supplements 22 over-the-counter 34 X-ray 5
diabetes 61 sleep 16-17
(carers assessment) 97 fruit 38-40, 46 routine for taking 19, 33
diagnosis 5 smoking 48
asthma 26, 29 funerals 87, 101 memory problems 16
diet 38 snacks 38, 40, 43
atrial fibrillation 31 money 79
digoxin 28 G social services 80, 97
B Disability Living Allowance general health 61 N see also benefits
benefits 79, 97 79, 81 goal-setting 56 negative thoughts 70 sodium 42-45
bereavement 101 diuretics 23 GTN 32, 104 New York Heart Association statins 30
beta-blockers 23, 26, 77 dizziness 15 guilt 74, 95 scores 7 stress 64-69
blackouts 14 DNR (Do Not Resuscitate nitrates 32 sugar 40
blood pressure 15, 37 Order) 85 suicide (thoughts about) 73
blood sugar 23, 26, 61 dosette box for medication 16 support groups 95, 101
blood (BNP) tests 5 drinking (alcohol) 49 sweet foods 44
breath, shortness of 5, 7, 11, 12 driving 63 swelling 11, 12, 42
symptoms of heart failure
5, 7, 11-17
syncope 14
106 British Heart Foundation An everyday guide to living with heart failure 107
About the British Heart Foundation

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is the nations

heart charity, dedicated to saving lives through
pioneering research, patient care, campaigning
for change, and providing vital information.
Our resources are free of charge, but a donation
would enable us to help more people who are
living with a heart condition.
If you would like to make a donation:

please call our donation hotline

on 0300 330 3322,
visit or
post it to us at the address
on the back cover.
Thank you.

Have your say

We would welcome your comments to help
us produce the best information for you. Why
not let us know what you think of this Everyday
guide to living with heart failure? Contact us via
the website or write to us
at the address on the back cover.

108 British Heart Foundation

British Heart Foundation 2012, registered charity in England and Wales (225971) and in Scotland (SC039426) G275U/0112
We are the nations heart charity, dedicated to
saving lives through pioneering research, patient
care, campaigning for change and by providing
vital information. But we urgently need your
help. We rely on your donations of time
and money to continue our life-saving
work. Because together we can
beat heart disease. Heart Helpline British Heart Foundation

Greater London House
0300 330 3311 180 Hampstead Road
London NW1 7AW T 020 7554 0000
Information & support on anything F 020 7554 0100
heart-related. Phone lines open
9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Similar cost to 01 or 02 numbers