Heart Failure: Your Action Plan

Living with heart failure may not be easy. But there are things you can do to help you feel better, avoid the hospital, and live longer.

5 daily steps that help heart failure

  • Weigh yourself at the same time each day. Keep a calendar by the scale, and write your weight on it every day.
  • Pay attention to symptoms, such as shortness of breath or swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs.
  • Limit sodium. Your doctor can tell you how much sodium is right for you.
  • Take your medicines as prescribed. Try to take them at the same time every day.
  • Be active. But watch for signs that your heart is being stressed, and know when to stop and rest.

What zone are you in?

Tracking your weight and other symptoms every day will help you know which heart failure zone you're in. And that can help you know when you need to get help.

Green Zone: You are doing well. This is where you want to be.
  • Your weight is stable. This means it is not going up or down.
  • You breathe easily.
  • You are sleeping well. You are able to lie flat without shortness of breath.
  • You can do your usual activities.
Yellow Zone: Call your doctor. Your symptoms are changing.
  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have sudden weight gain, such as more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • You are so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
  • You are not sleeping well. Shortness of breath wakes you up at night. You need extra pillows.

Your doctor's name: __________________________________________________

Your doctor's contact information: _______________________________________

Red Zone: Call 911. This is an emergency.

You have symptoms of sudden heart failure, such as:

  • Severe trouble breathing.
  • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus.
  • A new irregular or fast heartbeat.

You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

If you call 911 about symptoms of a heart attack:

  • The operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin.
  • Do not try to drive yourself. Wait for an ambulance.

More self-care tips

When you take charge of your health, you're more likely to feel better and keep your heart failure from getting worse. Here are other things you can do to take care of your body and your heart.

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Try to stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. Ask your doctor how much, if any, is safe.
  • Manage other health problems. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor if you feel sad or hopeless much of the time or if you are worried and anxious. These may be signs of depression or anxiety. Treatment with counseling and medicine can help.
  • Limit the amount of fluids you drink if your doctor recommends it.