Heart failure - what to ask your doctorWhat to ask your doctor about heart failure; HF - what to ask your doctor
Your heart is a pump that moves blood through your body. Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet your body's demands. As a result, blood does not move well and fluid builds up in places in your body that it should not. Most often, fluid collects in your lungs and legs. Heart failure most often occurs because your heart muscle is weak. However, it can happen for other reasons as well.
Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your heart failure.
What kinds of heath checks do I need to do at home and how do I do them?
- How do I check my pulse and blood pressure?
- How should I check my weight?
- When should I do these checks?
- What supplies do I need?
- How should I keep track of my blood pressure, weight, and pulse?
What are the signs and symptoms that my heart failure is getting worse? Will I always have the same symptoms?
- What should I do if my weight goes up? If my legs swell up? If I feel more short of breath? If my clothes feel tight?
- What are the signs and symptoms that I am having angina or a heart attack?
- When should I call the doctor? When should I call 911 or the local emergency number?
What medicines am I taking to treat heart failure?
- Do they have any side effects?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
- Is it ever safe to stop taking any of these medicines on my own?
- What over-the-counter medicines are not compatible with my regular medicines?
How much activity or exercise can I do?
- Which activities are better to start with?
- Are there activities or exercises that are not safe for me?
- Is it safe for me to exercise on my own?
Do I need to go to a cardiac rehabilitation program?
Are there limits on what I can do at work?
What should I do if I feel sad or very worried about my heart disease?
How can I change the way I live to make my heart stronger?
- How much water or fluid can I drink every day? How much salt can I eat? What are other types of seasoning I can use instead of salt?
- What is a heart-healthy diet? Is it ever OK to eat something that is not heart-healthy? What are some ways to eat healthy when I go to a restaurant?
- Is it OK to drink alcohol? How much is OK?
- Is it OK to be around other people who are smoking?
- Is my blood pressure normal? What is my cholesterol, and do l need to take medicines for it?
- Is it OK to be sexually active? Is it safe to use sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), or tadalafil (Cialis) for erection problems?
Januzzi JL, Mann DL. Approach to the patient with heart failure. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 21.
Mcmurray JJV, Pfeffer MA. Heart failure: management and prognosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 53.
Rasmusson K, Flattery M, Baas LS. American association of heart failure nurses position paper on educating patients with heart failure. Heart Lung. 2015;44(2):173-177. PMID: 25649810 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25649810/.
Review Date: 3/15/2021
Reviewed By: Thomas S. Metkus, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.