Managing your condition

Long term conditions: Heart failure - managing your condition

There are plenty of things you can do to help manage your condition:

Monitoring your weight

It is a good idea for people with heart failure to weigh themselves regularly, as this gives an indication of how much fluid the body is retaining. For example, if your weight goes up by four pounds, you may be retaining around three pints of fluid. The more fluid you retain, the more your ankles may swell and your breathing will feel worse (particularly when you lie down, or try to do things). 

Weigh yourself every day. 

Most people find it easiest to weigh themselves first thing in the morning, after going to the toilet, in their night-wear before breakfast. 

When weighing yourself, follow this advice:

  • Always use the same scales
  • Always weigh yourself at the same time of day
  • Always weigh yourself wearing the same sort of clothes/shoes
  • Always use the same units, ie stones and pounds or kilograms.

If your weight goes up by two to three pounds in one day, make sure you weigh yourself the next day and if it is still raised, particularly if you have noticed an increase in breathlessness or ankle swelling, contact your doctor or heart failure nurse for advice. 

If your weight has increased very quickly it is likely to be due to fluid retention and it is likely that you will need to take an extra dose of your diuretic (water) tablets for a day or two. Your doctor or nurse will advise you about this.

Get immunised

People with heart failure can quickly become very unwell with flu or pneumonia. Therefore we suggest you see your doctor to get the appropriate immunisations each autumn.

Heart failure clinics

Our Heart Failure Team run five heart failure clinics a week in Greenwich and visit patients in their own homes who are unable to attend a clinic.

In the heart failure clinic and when you are visited at home you will be seen by a nurse who specialises in the care and treatment of people with heart failure. Each time you will be examined and your weight, pulse and blood pressure recorded. From time to time you may also need an ECG (electrocardiogram) and blood tests.

Your nurse will make sure that you are prescribed the right medication to work most effectively for you. Everyone reacts differently to medicine, so to ensure you are on the best dose for you, your nurse may adjust drug doses quite often at first. They may also talk to your GP about how the medication is working and discuss alternatives.

The nurses work with a consultant cardiologist so that if they are concerned about you, they will either arrange for you to see the consultant, or discuss you with them.

Your nurse will also explain the things you can do to keep yourself as well as possible and answer any questions you may have about your condition. This will include information on diet and exercise.