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A physical therapist monitors an older adult walking on a treadmill.

Heart failure is a common cause of heart disease. It affects around 6.2 million adults in the United States. This number is expected to continue to rise. If you experience heart failure, you may have trouble doing daily home, work, and physical activities.

Heart failure symptoms can include feeling breathless, weight gain, fatigue, and a decreased ability to tolerate exercise. These can keep you from taking part in activities that you once enjoyed, and lead to an increased risk for a hospital stay and death.

It is important to maintain your quality of life while living with heart failure. Here are five recommendations to help you do so.

1. Educate yourself.

Research shows that people who learn about heart failure may improve their quality of life. Ask questions during your doctor visits and read about heart failure. Doing so will help you understand:

  • Your symptoms.
  • What to expect during a flare-up.
  • How to manage the disease and monitor symptoms.
  • Ways to improve your health that can lead to a more positive outlook.

2. Get support.

Living with heart failure is easier if you have support. Lean on your friends and family, or join support groups to help you as you go through diagnosis and treatment. Ask them to join you in activities you enjoy, such as walking, shopping, or riding your bike. Discuss your fears, concerns, and victories with those closest to you. Studies show that individuals who have positive family support experience a better quality of life.

Consider talking about your diagnosis and symptoms to encourage others to learn about heart failure.

3. Follow your treatment plan.

Studies show that sticking to your treatment plan can help to decrease anxiety and depression, which may come after a chronic illness diagnosis. Following your treatment plan is essential to help you reduce these and other problems. Make sure to:

  • Take your prescribed medicines on time.
  • See your doctor regularly.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Follow the exercise and physical activity plan prescribed by your physical therapist.
  • If you smoke, quit.

If you have an injury or condition that limits your ability to move or exercise, a physical therapist can work with you to address those problems and help you achieve the many health benefits of physical activity. Physical therapists are movement experts who improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement.

You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation. To locate a physical therapist in your area, visit Find a PT.

4. Keep a positive outlook.

Research shows that having a positive attitude supports quality of life for people with heart failure. Try not to compare your health with those around you. Instead, focus on being grateful for what you can do now. And focus on how you may be able to improve your health and well-being by following your treatment plan. If you do, you may get to enjoy doing more in the future. Make sure to enjoy time with friends and family. Investing your time in trying new hobbies or joining group activities can improve social well-being and help you keep a positive outlook.

5. Increase your physical activity level.

Regular physical activity can benefit your physical, mental, and social health. It also can prevent or improve many chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and some cancers.

We all know exercise is good for us. It is even more important if you have experienced heart failure. Many research studies have shown that regular physical activity improves exercise capacity and quality of life among people with heart failure.

Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, such as jogging.

Research also shows that people who took part in an exercised-based cardiac rehab program had a greater quality of life and improved exercise capacity compared with those who did not. Cardiac rehab is a supervised exercise program. It includes education, counseling, and monitored exercise to help improve overall cardiovascular (heart) health. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for more information.

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Moradi M, Daneshi F, Behzadmehr R, et al. Quality of life of chronic heart failure patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Heart Fail Rev. 2020;25:993–1006. Article Summary in PubMed.

Shoemaker MJ, Dias KJ, Lefebvre KM, Heick JD, Collins SM. Physical therapist clinical practice guideline for the management of individuals with heart failure. Phys Ther. 2020;100(1):14–43. Article Summary in PubMed.

Virani SS, Alonso A, Benjamin EJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2020 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2020;141(9):e139–e596. Article Summary in PubMed.

Cattadori G, Segurini C, Picozzi A, Padeletti L, Anzà C. Exercise and heart failure: an update. ESC Heart Fail. 2018;5(2):222–232. Article Summary in PubMed .

Sears SF, Woodrow L, Cutitta K, Ford J, Shea JB, Cahill J. A patient's guide to living confidently with chronic heart failure. Circulation. 2013;127(13):e525–e528. Article Summary in PubMed.

Heo S, Lennie TA, Okoli C, Moser DK. Quality of life in patients with heart failure: ask the patients. Heart Lung. 2009;38(2):100–108. Article Summary in PubMed.

Juenger J, Schellberg D, Kraemer S, et al. Health related quality of life in patients with congestive heart failure: comparison with other chronic diseases and relation to functional variables. Heart. 2002;87(3):235–241. Article Summary in PubMed.

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