4 Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Failure

Monday 6 September 2021
Cardiovascular Disorders
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Keep Your Body Moving

II. Maintain a Healthy Weight

III. Make Healthy Diet Choices

IV. Throw Out the Cigarettes

Receiving a heart failure diagnosis can wreak havoc on a person’s everyday activities and lifestyle. Heart failure is a serious condition that cannot be cured, so a detailed treatment plan is necessary to improve your survival rate. Several medications are often needed to improve the function of the heart and provide the body’s cells with oxygen and nutrients.

Medications like Cozaar (losartan), Corlanor (ivabradine), and Farxiga (dapagliflozin) are used to improve the heart’s rhythm and blood-pumping ability. Other prescription drugs like Lasix (furosemide) may also reduce side effects of heart failure like swelling of the body’s tissues (edema).

In most cases, heart failure can be prevented. Some people are prone to developing this dangerous condition if close family members have experienced heart failure in the past. Typically, a healthy lifestyle can keep your heart healthy, so read on for tips on reducing your risk of heart failure. [1]

a person eating a bowl of kale

Keep Your Body Moving

Exercise benefits everyone, but it can be especially helpful to those at risk of heart problems. In most cases, your doctor will tell you when you need to begin an exercise program. If your BMI (body mass index) reaches unhealthy levels and takes a toll on your heart, a plan is needed to get to a healthy weight.

If you are in pre-heart failure, some exercises may not be possible. Cardio exercises may be difficult, so it may take several months to develop an optimal exercise program. You will want to start slowly and walk short distances outside or on a treadmill. Some shortness of breath or increased heart rate is expected when exercising. Still, if you experience dizziness, chest discomfort, or weakness that does not resolve in 15 minutes, you should notify your doctor.

There are numerous benefits to exercise, and regular activity can do the following for the body and the heart:

  • Strengthen the heart and cardiovascular system
  • Improve muscle tone and strength
  • Improve circulation
  • Help the body use oxygen more efficiently
  • Reduce the risk of future heart problems
  • Improve balance and joint flexibility [2]

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential in preventing heart failure. A rapid weight gain and swelling of the body's tissues is one of the most common signs of worsening heart failure. If you notice a weight gain of more than two or three pounds in a 24-hour period or more than five pounds in a week, you should notify your doctor. When the heart's lower chambers cannot pump blood efficiently, blood can back up in your legs and cause swelling. [3]

Rapid weight gain is a problem when you are already diagnosed with heart failure, but you should always keep an eye on your weight to prevent the development of heart failure. Those who are obese or overweight are more likely to develop high blood pressure or diabetes, leading to heart disease.

a measuring tape

If you are overweight and do not have diabetes or hypertension, you are not safe from heart complications. Silent heart injury can occur with a high BMI due to increased troponin levels. Troponins are proteins found in skeletal and cardiac muscles and regulate muscular contractions. Scientists have found that having a BMI of 35 or higher leads to increased levels of troponins, which makes people nine times more likely to develop heart failure. [4]

Make Healthy Diet Choices

What you eat every day has a direct impact on your weight and heart health. Eating healthily can keep your weight down, which can make exercising much easier and enjoyable.

If you are at risk for heart failure, you may want to avoid certain types of food to reduce your risk of heart disease and heart failure. Your doctor will recommend avoiding saturated fat and trans fat. Limiting sodium can also help lower blood pressure. Salt also increases the risk of edema, making it harder for the heart to pump blood to the entire body. [5]

Drinking alcohol can raise your blood pressure, so you may want to limit your alcohol consumption. You may want to incorporate the following diet choices into your diet:

  • Choose plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Read food labels before buying packaged foods
  • Watch out for hidden salt
  • Be careful with condiments like ketchup, mustard, steak sauce, and soy sauce
  • Move the salt shaker to another table [6]

a salt shaker on the table

Throw Out the Cigarettes

It is well known now that smoking affects all aspects of the body. Smoking increases your risk of dangerous cancers as well as heart disease. If you smoke regularly, smoking can lead to atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty substances in the arteries. If the arteries are blocked, the heart cannot pump blood properly, putting you at risk for heart failure down the line. This strain on the heart can weaken the heart's muscles, compounded by the chemicals in cigarettes.

There is no safe amount of smoking, and the effect of tar and nicotine accumulates over time and takes a toll on the heart. It is never too late to stop smoking, and your blood pressure and heart rate will drop only a few hours after stopping smoking. After three years of not smoking, your risk for heart attack is nearly as low as someone who has never smoked. If you are struggling with quitting smoking, you can talk to your doctor about options that may work for you. [7]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.