Chronic heart failure is a very serious condition. Unfortunately there’s no cure, but your doctor or health practitioner can help you manage the problems it causes and improve your quality of life.
Chronic heart failure happens when your heart muscle gets damaged, then becomes weak and doesn’t pump properly. Once your heart is damaged, it can’t heal.
The damage can be caused by a heart attack, or long-term health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease.
It can also be caused by cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Chronic heart failure can make everyday activities exhausting, but by following the advice of your doctor or health practitioner you can improve the symptoms of your heart failure.
Finding out that you or someone you love has heart failure can be devastating. But you’re not alone. Around 100,000 Australians are living with heart failure.
Chronic heart failure causes extra fluid to build up in your body. You may feel very weak and tired.
Other common symptoms include:
If you have heart failure, and have new symptoms or your symptoms get worse, make sure you tell your doctor or health practitioner immediately. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure.
Your doctor may order some of these tests to diagnose heart failure:
Your doctor will talk to you about your medical history and find out the cause of your heart failure. This will help them decide the best treatments.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help control blood pressure or strengthen the pumping action of your heart. If you have angina, you may need medicine to treat it. Read more about medicines
Your doctor may recommend a medical device to help your heart work better, like a pacemaker or implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD). In specialised cases of heart failure, you may need a heart transplant or other surgery. Read more about heart procedures and devices
Tell your doctor or health practitioner if you:
It’s really important to monitor the fluid balance in your body. Weigh yourself every day so you know if fluid is building up. You may need to manage how much fluid you drink each day, or take medicines. You will need to restrict your fluids to 1.5 L/day. Eating less salt also helps control fluid.
Talk with your doctor or health practitioner about what you need to do for your situation.
Along with seeing your doctor or health practitioner regularly and taking your medicines as prescribed, lifestyle factors make a big difference in managing heart failure.
What you can do:
You may be able to attend a special program to help you manage your heart failure. This may consist of a heart failure nurse visiting you at home or attending a heart failure exercise program at your local health centre. Contact the Heart Foundation Helpline for more information.
Living well with chronic heart failure information sheets
For people with chronic heart failure and their carers. How to minimise symptoms and when to get help. Available in 17 languages.
This is an easy-to-read book for people who have heart failure and their carers. It has information that will help you feel better and that you can discuss with your doctor or nurse. Keep track of your medicines and fluid intake by filling in these charts with your nurse, pharmacist or doctor and keep it with you for your medical appointments.