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Heart failure questions and answers

What activities can I do? And when?

Check with your health care team for what's right for you. Some general guidelines:


It is important that you weigh yourself at the same time every day on the same scale.

  • Balance exercise with rest.
  • Increase exercise slowly.
  • Do not exercise right before or after meals.

How do I know if I'm doing too much?

If you have any of these symptoms, stop and rest:

  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • cold sweat
  • shortness of breath (makes conversation difficult)
  • extreme exhaustion or unusual fatigue
  • feeling as if your heart is suddenly racing or pounding
  • any chest pain or pressure moving to the teeth, arm, jaw, ear, neck or between your shoulder blades.

What if my weight increases? How much is too much?

A build-up of water in your body causes weight gain. When your body retains fluid, your weight goes up. Let your doctor know if you gain 3 pounds or more in one day, 5 pounds or more in one week, or if your weight stays the same but you're not eating well.

Is my scale OK to use?

Yes. Write down your weight when you get home from the hospital so you have a baseline weight. Weigh yourself with the same amount of clothes on. Record your weight on a calendar to track whether you are gaining, losing, or staying the same.


  • Take your medicine as prescribed each day.
  • Do not stop taking medicine without talking to your doctor.
  • Refill any prescription before it runs out.
  • There are some medicines that you should ask your doctor about before you consider taking them.

What medicines are used for heart failure and what do they do?

A combination of different types of medicines are helpful to manage heart failure. For example:

  • Ace inhibitors relax your blood vessels and make it easier for your heart to pump blood. Sometimes it takes several weeks before you feel benefits.
  • Diuretics help your body get rid of extra fluid by increasing your production of urine. Your heart won't work as hard when the amount of fluid in your body is reduced and you will breathe better.
  • Digoxin strengthens your heart so it can pump more blood, and controls irregular heart rhythms.
  • Anticoagulants or blood thinners (such as warfarin or Coumadin┬«) decrease the clotting ability of your blood and help to prevent blood clots.
  • Beta blockers reduce the work load on your heart and help your heart work with less oxygen.



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts