Heart Failure: Getting the Care You Need

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If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with heart failure, you probably have a lot of questions: What can I expect from treatment? What can I do to manage the condition? What kind of care will be needed in the future?

It's important to have an open and honest discussion with your healthcare provider about these concerns. The following tips can help you make sure your needs are met.

Having a detailed conversation with your healthcare provider will help to ensure you understand your condition and what your treatment involves. It might help to bring a list of questions with you. You can give the list to your provider or use it to jog your memory during the visit. Questions you should ask include:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • How serious is my condition?
  • What is my heart function or ejection fraction?
  • Will my condition get worse?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • Will the treatment have side effects?
  • Why do I need this medication?
  • Will my insurance cover the treatment?
  • How much will the treatment help me?
  • Will I be able to take care of myself in the weeks and months ahead?
  • What can I do to manage my condition?
  • Which activities can I do, and which should I avoid?

Bring a notebook to write down the answers. Some people bring a tape recorder so that they can listen to the conversation again. Don't be embarrassed to ask the provider to slow down or repeat something. It's important that you clearly understand your treatment, your medications and what you need to do to manage your condition. Don’t be afraid to be an advocate for your own health.

Be Open with Your Provider

Your healthcare provider will also need some important information from you. Tell your provider about your symptoms and how you're feeling. It's especially important to let your provider know about any changes or problems you've experienced. Be frank about whether you've been able to follow the diet, exercise and other advice you've been given. Your provider needs to know where you're having difficulty so that he or she can help.

Your provider also needs to know about all the medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, so bring a list with you. If you are seeing more than one provider, it is very important that each one knows all the medications prescribed for you.

Ask for a Helping Hand

Sometimes your regular routine can seem challenging. If it's exhausting going to and from medical appointments, ask a family member to come with you. He or she can take notes, help you remember questions to ask, and learn how to help you at home.

Your provider may give you a referral to see a registered dietitian if you're having trouble following a low-salt, low-fat diet. The dietitian will work with you to develop meal plans, shopping lists and recipes with your favorite foods. Your provider can also help you with exercise or recommend that you see an exercise specialist.

What You Can Do

There's a lot you can do at home to monitor your health. Your provider may ask you to weigh yourself regularly and keep a log of your weight, blood pressure, and symptoms. You can track your blood pressure with an easy-to-use digital monitor. Take your medications as prescribed. If you are having trouble remembering your medications, contact your provider. Never stop taking your medications before talking with him or her. These practices will help your provider evaluate how well your treatment is working.

Taking an active role in your health can have many benefits. The more you and your provider know about your heart failure, the better treatment and care you'll receive for your condition.



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