(BPT) - Managing a chronic condition like heart failure (HF) can be challenging, especially as our society adapts to a new sense of normalcy. But with HF, management is crucial at all times. The good news is that people with HF can still participate in many of the activities they love and lead fulfilling lives when following a treatment plan.
“An HF diagnosis certainly doesn’t mean a patient’s life is over,” said Beth Towery Davidson, a cardiac nurse practitioner from Nashville, Tenn. “However, the condition can worsen over time if the proper steps aren’t taken to slow the disease.”
HF generally means that the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. It changes the structure of the heart so it does not work as well. This can eventually lead to serious health complications or even hospitalization. In fact, HF accounts for nearly 1 million hospitalizations each year – that’s two every minute. An HF hospitalization is a sign that the condition is worsening, and many patients have to return to the hospital repeatedly throughout their lives.
For this reason, it’s especially important for people with HF to maintain heart-healthy routines as directed by their health care provider. “This includes following a low-salt diet, engaging in regular physical activity, routine follow-up with their health care team, and taking medications as prescribed,” said Beth. “These steps are an important part of HF management and can help reduce your risk of hospitalization.”
As routines change, so could HF management
There are about 6 million people in the U.S. who have chronic HF, and as the population gets older, the prevalence is expected to rise to 8.3 million. Now, as many people start to go back to the workplace or socialize more frequently in person, Beth says those who are living with HF may find themselves re-evaluating how these changes impact their condition and treatment. “As routines begin to change again or return to normal, your HF treatment plan may need to change, too,” she said.
There are ways people with HF can help take control of their lives and manage their condition as they establish new routines. These include:
1. Communicating regularly with your health care provider
Checking in with your health care provider is an important way to stay on top of your condition and maintain a treatment plan that works for you, which may include evaluating medication options. For example, Entresto® (sacubitril/valsartan) is a medicine prescribed by most cardiologists to treat adults with long-lasting, or chronic, HF to help reduce the risk of death and hospitalization. While Entresto has been helping patients with a certain type of HF for over 5 years, it was recently approved by the FDA as a treatment option for even more people with chronic HF.
Entresto works better when the heart cannot pump a normal amount of blood to the body. To learn more about Entresto for HF patients, go to Entresto.com.
“Continue regular communication with your health care provider in person or via telehealth about your symptoms and updates to your treatment plan,” said Beth. “If you’ve been hospitalized for HF or you were recently diagnosed with chronic HF, you should consider asking them if Entresto may be right for you.”
2. Monitoring your symptoms for changes
HF symptoms increase the risk of death and hospitalization, but they often go unnoticed. When the heart isn’t pumping normally, some parts of the body may not get the blood they need to function properly. For this reason, people with HF may experience symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling – often in the legs, ankles, feet and/or abdomen – making it difficult to do everyday tasks such as walking or climbing stairs.
“Many of the symptoms of HF or worsening HF can be mistaken for signs of aging, such as weakness and fatigue,” said Beth. “It’s important for people living with HF to be on the lookout for signs of worsening HF that may not be obvious.”
If you’ve been diagnosed with HF, consider using a symptom tracker to keep an eye out for changes in your symptoms and contact your health care provider immediately if they are worsening.
3. Incorporating physical activity into your routine
Whether you are continuing working from home or going back into the office, talk to your health care provider about incorporating physical activity into your daily routine. Stay active at home by engaging in everyday activities like vacuuming the house or raking the yard.
Try taking a walk during the day. Two thousand steps add up to approximately 1 mile of walking, and every step helps. You can also be active during your downtime, like when you’re watching television. Start by stretching during commercial breaks and keep your muscles moving while seated by rolling your shoulders or squeezing a ball.
4. Maintaining a heart-healthy diet
For people with HF, a key element of a healthy diet is monitoring how much salt you consume. Too much salt can cause the body to retain water, which can create an added burden on the heart. It’s easy to cook low-salt recipes with foods from the pantry – just remember to check the label on frozen and canned foods, since many can be high in sodium (salt).
Even if you’re not adding salt to your food, sodium has a way of sneaking into your diet. Takeout food, processed foods and even “low-calorie” meals may contain too much salt, so these should be avoided. When cooking at home, try using spices and herbs to add flavor to your foods, instead of salt.
Together with adding heart-healthy routines and finding a treatment plan that works for you, people with HF can continue to live a happy and meaningful life as they adapt to new routines.
What is ENTRESTO?
ENTRESTO is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with long-lasting (chronic) heart failure to help reduce the risk of death and hospitalization. ENTRESTO works better when the heart cannot pump a normal amount of blood to the body.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
What is the most important information I should know about ENTRESTO?
ENTRESTO can harm or cause death to your unborn baby. Talk to your doctor about other ways to treat heart failure if you plan to become pregnant. If you get pregnant during treatment with ENTRESTO, tell your doctor right away.
Do not take ENTRESTO if you:
Before taking ENTRESTO tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions, including if you:
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take potassium supplements or a salt substitute; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); lithium; or other medicines for high blood pressure or heart problems such as an ACE inhibitor, ARB, or aliskiren.
What are the possible side effects of ENTRESTO? ENTRESTO may cause serious side effects including:
The most common side effects were low blood pressure, high potassium, cough, dizziness, and kidney problems.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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