Heart Failure: After Hospitalization

Being in the hospital for heart failure can be a difficult and frightening experience. Once you’re back at home, you may worry about your health. Here’s how you can stay healthy and prevent the problems that can lead to a stay in the hospital.

Eat healthy foods

You’ll need to consume less salt and sodium. Try to eat fewer fast foods and packaged foods, such as canned soups, frozen meals ("TV dinners") and snack foods, which are high in sodium. Anything brined, such as pickles or olives, should be avoided. Canned vegetables are often high in sodium, even if they don't taste salty. Frozen vegetables are generally preferable, so long as no salt was added. You should not add salt to your food, and a good general rule is that if a condiment, such as soy sauce, tastes salty, it probably contains too much sodium and should be avoided. Always read food labels to see how much sodium is in the product. You should also avoid foods high in saturated fat. It's important to ask your health care provider whether it’s safe for you to drink alcohol.

Manage medications

Be sure that you know what each of your medications is for, when to take it, and how much to take. Find out whether you should continue taking all the medications you were taking before you were admitted to the hospital. If a medication type or dose has changed, taking previously prescribed medications may cause problems. It’s a good idea for a family member to know this information, too.

To help you remember when to take your medications, use a timer that rings or vibrates, or get a divided pillbox. Bring a current list of all your medications, including doses and when you take them, to each doctor's appointment. If you do not have a list, bring all your pill bottles. Also, let your health care provider know what over-the-counter and herbal medications (if any) and what dietary supplements you are taking.

Weigh yourself

One of the best ways to tell if your treatment is working involves your bathroom scale. Sudden weight gain may be a sign that your heart is having trouble. A change in medication may be all that’s needed to get you back on track. Weigh yourself every day, or as often as your provider tells you to. Call your health care provider if you gain more than two pounds in a day, five pounds in a week or another amount that your health care provider has asked you to report.

Check blood pressure

By checking your blood pressure at home, you can catch problems early. Your health care provider or pharmacist can help you choose a home monitor and show you how to use it. Ask your  health care provider what your blood pressure numbers should be and when to call him or her if your numbers are high.

Balance activity and rest

Make time in your day for naps and putting your feet up. You may need to start small with exercise, such as walking to the mailbox and back. Work with your health care provider to make a plan for safe exercise.