Heart Failure: Breathe More Easily

One of the earliest symptoms of heart failure is shortness of breath. Your heart can't function well enough to pump the blood out of your heart, and this causes blood to back up in the lung blood vessels. Fluid then leaks from your blood vessels into the air sacs in your lungs. This makes it hard for oxygen to get into the blood, causing shortness of breath.

You may experience breathlessness during exertion, such as when climbing a flight of stairs, or at rest -- even at night when sleeping.

You can do several things to help yourself breathe more easily:

  • Eat a healthy diet and avoid salt. This will reduce the amount of fluid your body retains. Talk with your doctor about how to limit your salt intake and what is best for you.

  • Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you become fatigued during an activity, stop and rest. You can always postpone finishing a task that wears you out.

  • Sleep with several pillows propped behind your head and shoulders to make it easier to breathe at night. If you notice that you need to use many pillows to help you breathe comfortably, call your doctor.

  • Talk with your doctor about what level of activity is appropriate for you. Your doctor can help you gauge what you can and can't do.

  • Work with your doctor to develop an aerobic exercise program, then exercise every day. This will strengthen both your heart and lungs and help reduce the amount of fluid that seeps into your lungs.

Shortness of breath can be a serious problem. If you notice a sudden worsening or you feel breathless while at rest when you never have before, call your doctor immediately.



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