The term "heart failure" tends to mislead. After all, people who have it don't necessarily have a heart that has stopped working — rather, their hearts can't pump blood as well as they should.
Still, it's serious. As your heart works overtime, it can cause tiredness, shortness of breath and a feeling of being simply worn out.
Such are the signs of fatigue, one of the most common symptoms of congestive heart failure. Nearly six million adults in the U.S. live with heart failure, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports, and many of them feel tired when they do even simple things around the house, such as taking a shower.
But luckily, people can thrive with a heart failure diagnosis and fight fatigue along the way. With a few lifestyle shifts (plus a few power naps, when the time calls), you can bring back more energy into your day. Ask your doctor what's right for you, and if they give the go-ahead, try these heart failure solutions to combat fatigue and live an active, exciting life.
1. Eat for Your Heart
If you have congestive heart failure, your doctor has likely already given you guidance for a heart-healthy diet. Generally, that means eating more of the good stuff (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, nuts and legumes) and less of the bad stuff (added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats and alcohol).
It's not just about what you eat either— it's when you eat, too. Sustain your energy for the whole day by packing good-for-you snacks with plenty of protein and fiber, such as low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit or unsalted nuts.
2. Renew Your Energy With Exercise
You likely know you should exercise, but figuring out how may seem impossible when even doing laundry winds you. You can make it work, though, and many people with heart problems do. Start slowly, follow your doctor's orders and do what you can.
At first, that might just mean sitting for shorter periods of time, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Later on, you might work your way up to short walks for five minutes, and then 10, and maybe even 15. Get your body ready by stretching, warming up and cooling down.
3. Take a Nap
You don't have to be a daytime warrior and stay up from dawn to dusk. The American Heart Association advises short naps when you're feeling too tired. These little breaks can restore your energy, give your heart a rest and help your mind recharge to tackle the rest of the day. Just make sure to set an alarm and limit naps to an hour or so to avoid disrupting your sleep schedule.
4. Make Time for Mental Health
If you have heart failure, you might be laser-focused on your physical health. How about your mind? Evidence suggests a big link between mental health and heart health, according to the American Heart Association.
By treating depression, anxiety and stress, you help reduce the impact those conditions have on your physical symptoms. Plus, it may help you sleep better and give you more joy and confidence to tackle better-for-you behaviors, including exercise and heart-healthy eating. All of those things can fight fatigue!
Try calming workouts such as yoga or meditation to manage stress and anxiety. If you think you might have depression, ask a doctor for help.
5. Get Better Sleep
And finally, one of the best ways to feel awake is to make the most of your time asleep. That means getting a full night's rest to help your body recharge for the next day. Try going to bed early, not looking at your phone (the light can make it hard to fall asleep) and keeping your bedroom at a cool temperature.
If you can, consider investing in a quality mattress. A bed that's too soft or too hard can make it difficult to get enough shut-eye, says the National Institutes of Health.
Taking Back Your Day
Heart trouble can take a toll on your energy, but you can fight back. Work these heart failure solutions into your day when you feel up to it and with your doctor's guidance, but don't get discouraged if the exhaustion comes back. It's sneaky like that. Little by little, you will find what works for you to power those daylight hours without feeling so drained.
So go ahead — take your day back from the fatigue. Life is waiting.