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Living with heart failure

Taking just a few steps leaves 50-year-old Corazon (not her real name) breathless and exhausted. Corazon suffers from heart failure, a serious life-threatening condition in which the heart weakens and cannot pump enough blood to fully meet the oxygen demand of the body.

Although heart failure (pumapalyang puso) is a chronic condition, the good news is that there are many ways you can manage it. Here are some ideas on how you can play an active role in the management of your heart condition.

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1Take control of your condition. Research and patient experience show that people who can adapt to their illness and take control of it have a better quality of life.

2Ask questions. Don’t wait to be asked about a symptom or concern. Tell your doctor what’s on your mind. That way, important information won’t get overlooked. Never be embarrassed about bringing something up or asking questions. Here are a few questions to get you started:

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  • How severe is my condition?
  • How will my condition change over time?
  • Are there activities I should avoid?
  • Are there things I should do each day?
  • What medicines do you recommend?
  • What are the most common side effects of my medicines?
  • Are there any local support groups I could join?
  • Are there any alternative treatments that may be able to help me?
  • When should I seek immediate medical attention?
  • What signs and symptoms are considered an emergency?

3 Keep positive. Talk to your doctor and/or caregiver: You do not have to face heart failure alone. With proper treatment, the symptoms of heart failure, including those that affect your mind and mood, can be managed and reduced. Your doctor may also recommend appropriate local support groups or counseling.

In addition to proper medical treatment, physical activity has been shown to improve the functioning of the brain for heart failure patients. This does not have to be anything extreme—it could be as simple as a gentle walk or light gardening. Find an option that works for you and suits your current health needs.

4Educate your friends about heart failure. Take the time to talk about your condition and how it affects your life.

5Analyze your symptoms. When you have heart failure, it’s important to monitor your symptoms and to take action when you notice them worsening.

6Check your weight. Try to make sure you weigh yourself every morning—if you notice a rapid weight gain (1-2 kilograms in 24 hours), this may be a sign of fluid buildup, an indication that your heart failure needs to be further managed.

7 Track energy levels. Are you finding everyday tasks more difficult, feeling more tired or finding it harder to breathe today compared to yesterday?

Identify and monitor the less common symptoms of heart failure, including digestive problems, nausea or dizziness.

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8Observe your sleeping patterns. If you start finding it more difficult to sleep, or you find it difficult to breathe when lying flat, this may also be a warning sign.

9Notify your doctor immediately if you notice any sudden changes in your symptoms.

Dr. Raul L. Lapitan, president of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) 2016-2017, completed his medical degree at the Far Eastern University-Dr. Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation Institute of Medicine and finished his Fellowship in Cardiology at the Makati Medical Center. The PHA is an organization of cardiovascular specialists and lay members that ensure accessible, affordable and quality cardiovascular education and care for everyone. For more information, visit www.philheart.org.

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TAGS: blood, Health, Heart Failure, oxygen, Science
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