Symptom Management

Symptom Management

Heart failure is a progressive condition. Its effects are highly variable, and the condition is often not diagnosed until symptoms occur and people seek medical attention. 

As the condition progresses, there may be changes to the structure and function of your heart. These changes may be easy to notice or happen in small steps over time. You may not recognize the presence or severity of symptoms as they develop.

That’s why it’s critical to be aware of the symptoms of heart failure and its effects on your day-to-day life. 

Your family or friends may notice changes in your health before you do. It’s important to make sure they are also aware of the symptoms of heart failure – especially if they are involved in your care.

What Symptoms Should I Track?

Your healthcare team will advise you on which heart failure symptoms to monitor. The most common things to monitor:

  • Any shortness of breath. 
  • Your energy level and ability to perform your regular activities.
  • Your pulse rate and if you experience heart palpitations and/or racing or throbbing heartbeats.
  • Your daily weight and whether you gain more than two pounds in a 24-hour period or more than five pounds in a week. Make sure you understand how much weight gain your doctor considers to be a problem for you.
  • Any swelling (or worsening swelling) in your ankles, lower legs, feet, or stomach.
  • Feeling confused, dizzy, or lightheaded.
  • Having problems with your memory or with thinking clearly.

Your care team may also ask you to keep track of other factors, such as your appetite, diuretic use, or sleeping ability. If you’ve been prescribed oxygen, your doctor may ask you to keep track of how much you’re using.

Heart Failure Zones

The Heart Failure Zones created by the BC Heart Failure Network and available from Heart & Stroke will help guide you in your self-management. 

Determining in which “zone” you are helps you to understand if your heart failure is under control and when to speak to your health care provider or seek emergency care.

Managing Advanced Heart Failure Symptoms

Advanced heart failure can cause many symptoms. Our new guide Living with Advanced Heart Failure: Coping with Symptoms and Uncertainty will help you identify and manage symptoms such as:

• Breathlessness
• Fatigue
• Swelling
• Pain
• Nausea and changes in appetite, and
• Anxiety and depression