Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition that affects more than 5.7 million adults. It happens when the heart loses its ability to efficiently pump blood to the feet and hands, organs, and skin.
While there is no cure, you can manage heart failure with appropriate medical treatments and lifestyle changes. The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Stop smoking.
- Practice good sleep habits.
- Manage stress.
- Get the right amount of physical activity and exercise.
Physical activity is essential to preventing and managing heart failure and other chronic diseases. Exercise leads to fewer symptoms, a greater sense of well-being, and increases the heart’s ability to pump blood. It even helps improve mood.
Seeing a physical therapist is key to managing heart failure.
New guidelines say people with a recent heart failure diagnosis should seek care from a physical therapist. A PT will assess your function. They will design a physical activity and exercise plan for your unique needs and goals. They will work with you to achieve the right amount and duration of exercise to reduce your exercise- and activity-related symptoms. In addition to medical management, exercise plays a critical role in stabilizing, slowing, or even reversing the progression of heart failure.
Exercise can be hard and scary for those new to it or who have existing heart disease. Getting help from a physical therapist will ensure that you are monitored for safety when starting your exercise program. Your PT also will provide patient education and help you develop strategies for behavior change.
It takes time and discipline to develop good exercise habits, but the benefits are well worth it. Regular exercise reduces hospital visits, prevents a variety of chronic illnesses, and improves the quality of life for those with heart failure. Working with a physical therapist can help you manage and maximize your heart health for the rest of your life.
What’s the bottom line? Your heart will love exercise. A physical therapist can help.
Find a PT near you.
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Reviewed by Michael James Shoemaker, PT, DPT, PhD, board-certified clinical specialist in geriatric physical therapy.