Living with heart failure

    • Brief

    • The heart is an organ that pumps blood around the body. This function is reduced when the heart is forced to do more than it can bear due to kidney problems, high blood pressure and high sugar levels. This reduction in its function occurs gradually, over time, until the heart finally fails.

      Heart failure is a life-threatening condition that is primarily managed by proper treatment of underlying diseases.

    • When you get the diagnosis

    • Old age and uncontrolled underlying medical conditions are two major risks for developing heart failure. When a person has high blood pressure the heart forces itself to pump more blood for circulation. Over time it gets tired and fails to pump blood adequately. Symptoms such as tiredness, difficulties breathing, swollen legs and swollen stomach will appear.

      A healthcare provider is able to resolve the condition by diagnosing and giving prescription-only medicines such as blood pressure reducers, drugs that stabilize heartbeats, and those that coordinate the muscles of the heart. In severe situations, surgeries such as a heart transplant (removing the damaged heart and replacing it with one from a deceased person), are performed. Devices called pacemakers, are placed into the chest to assist in coordinating the heart movements. All these require an improved lifestyle to regulate the heart function.

    • Work and your health

    • Heart failure is likely to require changes in your work routine. Your healthcare provider will be there to guide you on these changes.

      • Your nature of work and work schedule may have to be adjusted to make work less stressful. You will have to discuss with your employees or employers so that they understand.
      • Frequent travelling should be reduced because of long hours of sitting in one position. This can cause swollen legs and tiredness which worsens your condition. Your healthcare provider may recommend wearing compression socks to force blood from the legs into the rest of the body.
      • You should reduce or outsource strenuous occupations like farming, building or trading to make time for your health.
      • Discuss with your healthcare provider whether it is advisable for you to drive a car or that you need to get a driver.
      • If you have a pacemaker in your chest, frequent checkups at the hospital are required to check its status. Also, on such visits, you can review your medications and discuss how you feel with your healthcare provider. Due to the number of medications used in heart failure, proper monitoring for side-effects is required.
    • Diet and nutrition

    • See the wellness section for information about eating a heart-healthy diet.

    • Physical activity

    • Engage in physical activities like walking, and exercise for 15-30minutes each day. This will help you reduce weight healthily. Develop new habits that promote physical activity like taking a regular evening stroll on the street or exercising while sitting.

    • Support from family and friends

    • When recovering from heart failure, you are likely to feel tired after little activity. You will need some help with caring for yourself and getting things done. Ask family and friends for help or hire a professional caregiver.

      Adjusting to your condition may also cause you some distress or may make you sad. Talk to family or friends about these challenges, or speak to your healthcare provider about getting professional care. Depression can worsen your health, so getting care early can help you keep healthy for longer.

    • Financial impact

    • With heart failure, your care will involve many types of specialists, and this can be very expensive. Health insurance can reduce the impact of care on your finances. If you do not have health insurance , speak to your healthcare provider about subscribing.

      In Lagos state, you may be able to get care free of charge if you are over the age of 60 (older adults).

    • Kulawa cares

    • Heart failure is a severe condition that worsens over time even with medication. With medication and proper care, you can live symptom-free for many years. Many people may develop additional symptoms as the disease progresses, let your healthcare provider know about any new symptoms or worsening ones.