Each individual will experience heart failure differently, depending on their symptoms and the frequency with which they affect them. As a result, you can’t predict how things will be following a heart failure diagnosis. But many patients can and do lead a full and normal life when they manage their illness and focus on self-care.
More than half a million Canadians are living with heart failure and there’s currently no cure for this chronic illness. While the illness typically affects people later in life, it can affect all ages, and each patient case is unique. Because of this, it’s important to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of heart failure, especially considering early diagnosis of heart failure ensures optimal treatment.
It’s important to take things one day at a time to avoid undue stress on the heart or lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. We’ve rounded up some tips that can help you find the balance that works for you during your journey with heart failure.
1. Assess your work situation
The University of Ottawa’s Heart Institute explains that not everyone who is diagnosed with heart failure needs to stop working. Nonetheless, it’s best to wait until your symptoms have stabilized and your medications are optimized before you consider returning to work. The type of work that you do will also affect when you return to work.
If you work in an office, you may be able to return to work sooner than if you have a stressful or physically demanding job. The University of Ottawa’s Heart Institute recommends returning to work gradually as it will be less tiring if you start working part-time, at least at the beginning.
At work, listen to your body and take regular breaks to get fresh air, walk around, and stay hydrated. It’s important that your employer understands your situation and that you find the right system for you. Similarly, if you are self-employed, allocate time for breaks in your schedule and only take on the level of work within your capabilities.
2. Schedule time for exercise
Heart failure can change the types of muscle fibres in your body and decrease the number of fibres for endurance. Thankfully, exercise allows the body to become more efficient in its use of oxygen. Making exercise a part of your regular routine can help you feel better and reduce some of the symptoms associated with heart failure, such as shortness of breath and fatigue.
3. Look after your mental health
If you feel helpless and you’re struggling to cope with heart failure, you are not alone. Ongoing feelings of anxiety or depression can interfere with your relationships and daily activities, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor, nurse, social worker, or loved ones, if you’re feeling this way. Identifying what causes you stress and developing therapeutic plans to manage those times can help.
Seeking support from heart failure networks and sharing your story can also help you to understand that others are going through a similar experience. The HeartLife Foundation’s closed Facebook Support Group is always there when you need it.
Remember to make time to focus on self-care and finding the right balance that works for your unique personal journey with heart failure.