Heart Failure FAQs

What is heart failure? [+/-]

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle weakens and cannot adequately pump blood to the rest of the body. Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped. Instead, patients with heart failure develop the condition over time, as the heart becomes weaker and weaker. The condition is serious but also very common, affecting more than 5 million people in the United States.

I’ve always felt good. Why do I have this? [+/-]

Heart failure happens differently in everyone. Sometimes there are subtle symptoms that are not recognized or are thought to be from other reasons. For example, some people rationalize being short-winded to seasonal allergies or the heat or cold. Learning to recognize what your heart failure feels like to you is important. Talk to your provider to understand the reasons why your heart muscle is weak.

I’ve felt poorly for years. Why is this being discovered now? Why didn’t they find it sooner? [+/-]

People with heart failure often go to many different providers to rule out other medical conditions that produce similar symptoms. Everyone’s body is different, and symptoms come and go. Sometimes heart failure is a clear diagnosis, sometimes it isn't. The important thing is that now you are aware of the problem and can take the necessary steps to treat it.

Why do I have to take all these pills? [+/-]

Each pill you are prescribed serves a different function to improve the functioning of the heart and control symptoms. Some pills affect the heart directly; others affect different hormones in the body that affect the heart. The body is one system, and the wholeness of the medical problem is managed with this medication.

Why do I feel worse after taking the pills than I did without them? [+/-]

That may or may not happen, particularly when you first start. It is important to tell your provider how you are feeling because he or she can help. Please do not stop taking the medication without talking to your provider first.

I’m gaining weight, what do I do? [+/-]

People with heart failure need to weigh themselves every day. If you gain two pounds overnight or five pounds in one week, you may be holding on to excess fluid. If not controlled, you could end up in the hospital. The Heart Failure Center will see you urgently and determine the best plan.

What can I eat? [+/-]

With heart failure, a low-sodium diet is recommended. The Heart Failure Center will teach you satisfying ways to maintain a low-salt diet. Keep a proper portion size and avoid large meals, as the weakened heart cannot compensate for the excess circulation needed to digest the food. Buffet meals are not recommended.

What can I drink? [+/-]

It is recommended that you drink 64 ounces daily. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol are generally not recommended. It is best to talk with your provider about this.

Can I exercise? [+/-]

Yes, but please do not overexert yourself. Because the heart muscle is weak, your heart cannot compensate circulating the oxygen-filled blood to itself and the other muscles at the same time. It you are short-winded during exercise, you are overdoing it.

Can I have sex? [+/-]

Yes, but some people with heart failure need to change their routines. There are many ways to explore intimacy.

Do I need a heart transplant? [+/-]

Maybe. In 2013, approximately 2,500 people received a heart transplant. About 4,000 are on the waiting list. (Reference: http://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/latestData/rptData.asp.) But there are many other treatments and options before a heart transplant is considered. Your heart doctor will guide you in this if it is appropriate for your care.

How do I contact the Heart Failure Center? [+/-]

Please call 410-601-7750.