Up to half of patients hospitalized for heart failure are back in the hospital within 6 months. Many people return because of lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, failure to comply with medications, and social isolation.
Programs that offer intensive follow-up to ensure that the patient complies with lifestyle changes and medication regimens at home can reduce rehospitalization and improve survival. Patients without available rehabilitation programs should seek support from local and national heart associations and groups. A strong emotional support network is also important.
Monitoring Weight Changes
Patients should weigh themselves each morning and keep a record. Any changes are important:
- A sudden increase in weight of more than 2 - 3 pounds may indicate fluid accumulation and should prompt an immediate call to the doctor.
- Rapid wasting weight loss over a few months is a very serious sign and may indicate the need for surgical intervention.
Sodium (Salt) Restriction. All patients with heart failure should limit their sodium (salt) intake to less than 1,500 mg a day, and in severe cases, very stringent salt restriction may be necessary. Patients should not add salt to their cooking and their meals. They should also avoid foods high in sodium. These salty foods include ham, bacon, hot dogs, lunch meats, prepared snack foods, dry cereal, cheese, canned soups, soy sauce, and condiments. Some patients may need to reduce the amount of water they consume. People with high cholesterol levels or diabetes require additional dietary precautions. [For more information on diet and heart health, see In-Depth Report #43: Heart-healthy diet. ]
Review Date: 05/04/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.