Young and Living with Heart Failure

If you've experienced heart failure, there are plenty of ways to get your health back.

Healthy Heart|Nov.10, 2018

You never dreamed this would happen to you. Not at your age. You're young, supposedly in the prime of your life — but you've been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, or maybe even had a stroke.

Don't fret. Recovery is possible.

Many minimally invasive technologies can keep you healthy after heart failure. You may need a device such as a pacemaker or implantable cardiac defibrillator to keep your heart working properly. Other critical technologies include the pulmonary artery pressure monitoring system, which monitors your heart and detects heart failure symptoms before you even feel them; there's also cardiac resynchronization therapy, which keeps your heart beating in a regular pattern.

This technology might seem overwhelming, but don't be intimidated — these are critical tools that can help you get back to your regular life.

But you can also begin to regain your heart health by creating an action plan to lead a healthier, less stressful life. And we have five concrete, practical steps that you can take to improve your heart's health after congestive heart failure.

1. Improve Your Diet

One of the healthiest ways to change up your diet is to replace most — if not all — of the beverages you drink with water. By eliminating soda, juices and sports drinks, you'll not only cut out empty calories, but you'll reduce your intake of sugar. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have linked excess sugar intake with heart disease.

Another good area to focus on is snacks. Instead of reaching for chocolate or chips, snack on fruit, raw nuts, hummus, homemade guacamole, or apples dipped in natural peanut butter.

Above all, make sure that your diet consists of a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods. You can make going to the grocery store fun by taking a trip with a friend to your local health food store and buying new items to taste-test.

2. Enjoy Your Exercise

Forcing yourself to do an exercise you don't really enjoy usually doesn't lead to a long-term habit.

If you'd rather be outdoors, ditch the gym and find a hiking or running path near your home or work. Or consider how you can get outdoors on your lunch hour. Maybe there's a healthy lunch spot a 20-minute walk away.

Maybe you love swimming. If you do, so look for a gym with a pool; you can even sign up for water aerobics or take lessons to improve your swimming skills.

3. Learn Your Family History

Gather some details about the health of your family members. Ask your siblings, parents and grandparents about their health conditions. Inquire about how relatives died — were they related to heart disease, or some genetic condition that could have been passed down between generations?

Arm yourself with this information and go over it in detail with your doctor to understand the symptoms to look for or the tests you might need. Arming yourself with a solid health plan means that a family history of heart disease and stroke doesn't have to stop you in your tracks.

4. Reduce Stress

Minimizing stress is critical to keeping your blood pressure down and your heart healthy. It's possible that meditation could help. It's a great way to start your day or to give yourself a calming midday break. Focus on your breathing, and gently push away thoughts about work. Don't focus on having a blank mind; consider how your body feels in the moment. Plenty of free apps provide short, guided meditation routines.

You can also diminish stress by changing up your commute. While you might not be able to avoid that daily hour-long drive to work, you could make it more peaceful. If the news stresses you out, switch to a podcast or an audiobook, or while walking or relaxing at home, take time to call a friend or family member you want to catch up with.

5. Get Better Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of Americans don't get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your body: It slows your metabolism, which can cause you to gain weight; and it can spike your blood pressure, which stresses your heart. And, according to the CDC, adults who got less than seven hours a night were more likely to have severe chronic health conditions — including heart attacks, strokes and coronary heart disease.

While every person is different, most of us need six to eight hours of sleep per night. But quality sleep is key. Quit drinking caffeine completely, or at least stop by midday. And turn down your thermostat; sleeping in a cool bedroom improves sleep quality.

Create a soothing slow-down to your day as you approach bedtime, and turn it into a nightly routine. Put away your work, shut off your electronic devices, and curl up with a good book. Charge your smartphone somewhere other than your bedroom and go back to an old-fashioned alarm clock.