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reviewed 7/20/2018

Monitoring heart failure

Heart failure

Subtle changes in health may mean problems.

Learn what to monitor.

If you have heart failure, it's important to track even small changes in symptoms. They could mean your condition is getting worse—or your medications aren't working properly. Select to learn what health factors should be on your checklist—and ask your doctor if there are others you should be aware of.

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Mental health:

Ask your loved ones to keep an eye out for any confusion, lapses in memory, depression or other changes in mental health.

Sleep:

Check in with your quality of sleep. Are you having trouble staying asleep? Are you using extra pillows to prop your head up? Do you feel tired throughout the day?

Breathing:

Monitor any difficulty with breathing—such as shortness of breath or a dry, hacking cough. Is it worse than usual?

Heart rate:

Know what your normal heart rate is, and check it regularly. Be aware of heart palpitations, which may feel like your heart is racing or throbbing.

Blood pressure:

Monitor your blood pressure to see if it is higher or lower than normal.

Appetite:

Take note if you lose your appetite or feel nauseated.

Weight:

Weigh yourself at the same time every morning: before breakfast and after using the bathroom. Stay aware of any sudden changes in weight, especially if you've gained 2 or 3 pounds within 24 hours.

Swelling:

Check your feet, ankles and legs for swelling. Be aware of any discomfort in your abdomen too.

When to seek help

Work with your doctor. In addition to self-monitoring, it's important to see your doctor regularly—at least every 3 to 6 months—for follow-up and testing. During these visits, ask what symptoms are important for you to track. Also ask when a change in health may constitute an emergency.

How to help heart failure

Sources: American Heart Association; National Institutes of Health

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