The common misconception about having heart failure is that your heart immediately stops beating. The reality is that heart failure can be a slow process that happens over time. Being diagnosed with the disease can be overwhelming, but you are not alone. At least one person is diagnosed with heart failure every minute, according to WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. While there is no cure for the millions of women living with heart failure, it can be managed with the proper knowledge, treatment and support.
“Successful treatment and management of heart failure must include interventions in the home, community and the doctor’s office. Living with this disease can be a confusing and isolating experience. That’s why we must continue to improve the treatment approach to provide women with heart failure the important tools needed to feel empowered to face the disease each day,” says Mary McGowan, CEO of WomenHeart.
Of those living with heart failure, half are women. More than 2.5 million women in the United States have heart failure, and they often face a very different burden than men. Women tend to develop heart failure at an older age, suffer from depression more frequently and experience a greater number of symptoms than men, including shortness of breath, swelling around the ankles and difficulty exercising.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure, there’s hope. Here are seven tips for managing the disease:
• Find a doctor you trust. If needed, ask whether you should see a cardiologist who is specially trained to treat advanced heart failure.
• Take your medications correctly. Make sure you understand why you are taking each medication and how and when to take each one. Newly adopted guidelines have expanded the list of recommended medications, so ask your doctor if these new treatments are right for your individualized treatment plan.
• Make a daily plan for diet and exercise, and stick to it. Play an active role in your care and stay on track with your treatment plan.
• Tune in to your body. Pay close attention to changes such as new symptoms or rapid weight gain.
• Touch base with your emotions. Depression is common in women with heart failure. Don’t let your disease define you. Find the support you need to live a fulfilling and enjoyable life. WomenHeart has a support group for you, whether you prefer one-on-one, group settings or virtual options.
• Know your limits. Stay active, but don’t overdo it. You might not be able to do everything you used to do. Pace yourself and save your energy for what matters most.
• Don’t go it alone. Seek support. Be honest with your loved ones, and don’t be shy about asking for help. Educate yourself, ask questions and build a strong relationship with your doctor.
For more information on heart failure, visit www.womenheart.org