Preventing Heart Failure

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    Preventing Heart Failure

    Preventing Heart Failure

    Heart failure is a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood. This may mean that the heart cannot pump enough blood out to the body or that the heart does not fill up with enough blood. Either of those problems can lead to symptoms such as tiredness (fatigue), trouble breathing, and swelling throughout the body.

    This is a common medical condition that affects not only the heart, but the entire body. Making certain nutrition and lifestyle changes can help you prevent heart failure and avoid serious health problems.

    How can this condition affect me?

    Heart failure can cause very serious problems that may get worse over time, such as:
    • Extreme fatigue during normal physical activities.
    • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing.
    • Swelling in your abdomen, legs, ankles, feet, or neck.
    • Fluid buildup throughout the body.
    • Weight gain.
    • Cough.
    • Frequent urination.

    What can increase my risk?

    The risk of heart failure increases as a person ages. The following factors may also make you more likely to develop this condition:
    • Being obese.
    • Using tobacco or nicotine products.
    • Abusing alcohol or drugs.
    • Having taken medicines that can damage the heart, such as chemotherapy drugs.
    • Have a family history of heart failure.
    • Having any of these medical conditions:
      • High blood pressure (hypertension) or coronary artery disease.
      • Diabetes.
      • Abnormal heart rhythms.
      • Thyroid problems.
      • Low blood counts (anemia).
      • Lung disease.
      • Chronic kidney disease.

    What actions can I take to prevent heart failure?


    A plate with examples of foods in a healthy diet.
    • If you are overweight or obese, reduce how many calories you eat each day so that you lose weight. Work with your health care provider or a diet and nutrition specialist (dietitian) to determine how many calories you need each day.
    • Eat foods that are low in salt (sodium). Avoid adding extra salt to foods. This can help keep your blood pressure in a normal range.
    • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes a lot of:
      • Plant-based foods.
      • Fresh fruits and vegetables.
      • Whole grains.
      • Lean meats.
      • Beans.
      • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
    • Avoid foods that contain a lot of:
      • Trans fats.
      • Saturated fats.
      • Sugar.
      • Cholesterol.


    • Do not drink alcohol if:
      • Your health care provider tells you not to drink.
      • You are pregnant, may be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant.
    • If you drink alcohol:
      • Limit how much you have to:
        • 0–1 drink a day for women.
        • 0–2 drinks a day for men.
      • Know how much alcohol is in your drink. In the U.S., one drink equals one 12 oz bottle of beer (355 mL), one 5 oz glass of wine (148 mL), or one 1½ oz glass of hard liquor (44 mL).


    Silhouette of a person sitting on the floor doing yoga.
    • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. These products include cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
    • Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days each week, or as much as told by your health care provider.
      • Do moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, bicycling, or water aerobics.
      • Ask your health care provider which activities are safe for you.
    • Try to get 7–9 hours of sleep each night. To help with sleep:
      • Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
      • Do not eat a heavy meal during the hour before you go to bed.
      • Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks before bed.
      • Avoid screen time before bedtime. This means avoiding television, computers, tablets, and mobile phones.
    • Find ways to relax and manage stress. These may include:
      • Breathing exercises.
      • Meditation.
      • Yoga.
      • Listening to music.

    General instructions

    • See a health care provider regularly for screening and wellness checks. Work with your health care provider to manage your:
      • Blood pressure.
      • Cholesterol levels.
      • Blood sugar (glucose) levels.
      • Weight.
    • If you have diabetes, manage your condition and follow your treatment plan as instructed.

    Where to find more information

    Contact a health care provider if:

    • You have rapid weight gain.
    • You have increasing shortness of breath that is unusual for you.
    • You tire easily or you are unable to participate in your usual activities.
    • You cough more than normal, especially with physical activity.
    • You have any swelling or more swelling in areas such as your hands, feet, ankles, or abdomen.

    Get help right away if:

    • You have trouble breathing.
    • You have pain or discomfort in your chest.
    • You faint.

    These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.). Do not drive yourself to the hospital.


    • Heart failure can cause very serious problems that may get worse over time.
    • Heart failure can be prevented by making changes to your diet and lifestyle.
    • It is important to eat a healthy diet, manage your weight, exercise regularly, manage stress, avoid drugs and alcohol, and keep your cholesterol and blood pressure under control.

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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