Heart Failure

Lifestyle & Management

If you have heart failure, you can manage your diet and be physically active. This will help manage your symptoms and keep your condition from becoming more serious. 

Salt in Your Diet

You need to make sure your diet doesn’t have higher amounts of sodium (salt) than is good for your level of heart failure. Consult your healthcare provider to determine your individual goal for salt intake.

Watch Your Weight

If a person has heart failure, their healthcare provider may ask them to weight themselves every day. This should be done in the morning without clothes, after going to the bathroom, and before eating. This is a person’s “dry weight,” which is based on their home scale.

Call your healthcare provider if you gain or lose more than two to three pounds in one day. These quick changes in weight are usually a sign of fluid buildup. Your medications may need changes.

Lose Weight

If overweight, a person can improve heart failure by losing weight. A dietitian or nutritionist can help plan a workable weight loss program. Some weight loss tips include

  • Set reasonable weight loss goals (no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week).
  • Avoid high-calorie snack foods and fast foods.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar and fat you take in.
  • If you are a fast eater, slow down. It takes about 20 minutes for the message to get to your brain that youve had enough to eat. 
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake.


Heart failure doesn’t mean you should stop exercising. People with heart failure need to remain as fit as they can. This will help keep your heart failure from becoming more serious. A healthcare provider can help you plan an exercise program that will be safe for you to help strengthen your heart and regulate your heart rate.

Note that people with serious heart failure need to exercise in a cardiac rehabilitation center under the supervision of a trained exercise therapist.  

Quit Smoking and Drink Cautiously 

Smoking damages your blood vessels. If you have heart failure and still smoke, try to quit as soon as possible. There are many helpful programs to help you break the habit.

Drinking alcohol poisons the heart. Heavy drinking over time damages the heart and leads to high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke. If you drink, talk with your healthcare provider about cutting down or stopping. 

Avoid Certain Non-prescription Drugs and Herbal Remedies

Medications that you can buy without a prescription can cause fluid buildup and can make your heart failure worse. Avoid the following: 

  • Sodium-based antacids such as sodium bicarbonate
  • High doses of aspirin
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn), especially in pill form. Topical NSAID formulations (applied directly to the skin) are less likely to worsen heart failure.
  • Decongestants
  • Ginseng (may aggravate high blood pressure)
  • Ginkgo biloba (may contribute to bleeding)


Last Updated February 2023