Be a Partner in Your Heart Failure Care

You have a team working hard to keep you well but they can’t do it alone. You are an important member of the team. Be open and honest when you talk to doctors, nurses, or others. Let them know about problems you are having with the treatment plan or symptoms.

Understand your heart failure and what steps you need to manage it. Ask plenty of questions. This will help you make better decisions on a day-to-day basis. The more active you are in your care, the better the outcome will be.

Follow Your Care Plan

Daily habits can impact your heart. Understand the steps listed in your care plan such as:

  • Reach and keep a healthy weight.
  • Choose heart-healthy fats. Limit fats and cholesterol.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.

Ask for help if you are having trouble making these changes. Don’t feel embarrassed if you are. Professionals may have tools to help you. A cardiac rehabilitation program may also help. They not only teach you what habits are healthy, but also show you how to start making these changes.

Medicine and treatments can have side effects. Let your care team know about any problems you are having. The team may be able to adjust your treatment or make changes to help you cope.

Identify Problems

You will be the first to know when some symptoms start or worsen. Let your care team know about changes. Follow steps in your care plan. The sooner problems are treated, the better the outcome will be.

You may notice some changes such as:

  • Shortness of breath and problems doing day-to-day tasks
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Increased swelling in your ankles, lower legs, and feet or belly
  • Confusion or problems thinking
  • Rapid or racing heartbeat or chest pain
  • Trouble sleeping or breathing while lying down

Others signs will need to be tracked. Follow your care plan for what you should track and how often you need to do it. Steps may include:

  • Weigh yourself every day. A sudden weight gain is a sign of trouble. Let your care team know if you have an increase of 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week.
  • Check your blood pressure. Home devices can take the blood pressure for you. You can find blood pressure devices in pharmacies. Let your doctor know if it falls out of the range they set.
  • Track how much oxygen you need in a day.

Let your care team know if you are having trouble tracking symptoms. Keep in touch with your team. Let them know about any flare-ups you have had.

Practice Self-Care

A chronic disease can cause a lot of changes in your life. Change can be stressful. You may also withdraw from social events. Both impact your physical and mental health. Share your concerns with your care team. Let them know if anxiety or depression is making day-to-day tasks hard or you have problems with relationships. Be on the lookout for any of the following:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Hopelessness
  • Trouble sleeping, waking up too early, or oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, with or without suicide attempts

Know that these don't need to be part of your "normal". Treatment can help to ease these symptoms. There are also tools that may help you cope better.

Stay in Touch with Your Care Team

Open and honest talk with your care team can improve your overall wellness. The earlier you tell your care team about any problems you are having, the better it will be.


American Heart Association
Heart Failure Association of America


Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Managing heart failure symptoms. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Treatment options for heart failure. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated April 30, 2017. Accessed April 24, 2019.
White M, Kirschner J, et al. Self-care guide for the heart failure patient. Circulation. 2014;129:e293-e294. Available at: Accessed April 24, 2019.
Last reviewed May 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Peter Oettgen, MD
Last Updated: 10/16/2019

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.