“I led a devil-may-care way of life. I ate what I wanted, did what I wanted. I just existed.”
Sound familiar? Many of us, intentionally or not, are walking a tight rope when it comes to our heart health.
William “Bill” Juliano’s description of his “devil-may-care” lifestyle doesn’t include what happened next.
Bill, from Oregon, suffered a massive heart attack. One he never thought he’d survive. Bill was among the 6 million Americans who suffer from heart disease.
Marquis Take Heart Program
But Bill made a choice after his heart attack. He began following Marquis’ Take Heart Program. Using a simple but methodical process, Marquis therapists helped Bill relearn how to walk, dress, give up dangerous habits that take life (smoking) and adopt ones that give life (exercise).
“They were encouraging, they prodded me,” said Bill.
He was so encouraged by the Take Heart Program, that a few years ago, instead of someone pushing him in his wheelchair for the annual Heart Walk, Bill strolled behind and pushed his own wheelchair. You can watch him cross the finish line here.
“I examined how precious life really is and not to take it for granted. (The Take Heart Program) provides a new way of life for you,” says Bill.
“Our Take Heart Program opens the door to an empowering new way of living,” says Vicki Nordby, RN, BSN and a 13 year nurse consultant with Marquis Companies. “It works because we teach residents that they can take control of their health and manage the disease.”
So, take heart! Today, we’re going to guide you through some of the same easy steps Bill took toward a healthier ticker.
Heart Failure Fast Facts
First, let’s quickly go over some of the most common questions about heart failure.
- What is heart failure? Despite how it sounds, heart failure, doesn’t always mean the heart stops beating. It’s when the heart is unable to pump enough blood and oxygen to the body.
- How many people have heart failure? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than six million adults in the US have heart failure. It’s an expensive disease too, costing the nation more than 30 billion dollars in health care services, medicines for treatment and missed days of work.
- Who is at risk? People with coronary artery disease, which includes diabetes, high blood pressure, valvular heart disease, obesity and other conditions related to heart disease like arrythmia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. People who smoke, eat high fat and sodium rich foods, drink excessively and avoid exercise, are also at high risk. Check out our previous blogs on how you can lower salt intake, restore balance, and recognize and manage COPD.
- What are the symptoms? Common red flags include shortness of breath, even when lying down and weight gain or swelling in your stomach, feet, legs and ankles.
- Does the Take Heart Program work? Yes! The Take Heart Program, along with other initiatives like our Breath Deep Program for managing COPD, are resulting in some of the lowest hospital readmissions in the country. (The most recent data, fiscal year 10/1/2019-9/30/2020, shows the national rehospitalization rate at 22.6%; Marquis’ rate is 12.16%. It’s also why, according to the American Health Care Association, Marquis is among the top three multi-facility corporations for quality. Because of that success, hospitals increasingly turn to Marquis as a preferred partner helping patients manage disease.)
Now, let’s get to work! Here are 7 things to do every day to combat heart failure. You can use your own journal or use some of the free, downloadable tools here.
#1 Weigh Yourself
Before breakfast, weigh yourself and write it down. Compare it to your last weight. Call your doctor or nurse if you see a gain of 2 pounds or more in a 24 hour period or 5 pounds or more in one week.
#2 Take Your Prescribed Medications
Following the directives of your medical provider for medication management is essential to maintain the highest cardiac function.
#3 Check for Swelling in Your Feet, Ankles, Legs or Stomach
Swelling is an indicator of excess fluid in your system. Excess fluid causes the heart to have to work harder and/or exacerbates the ineffective heart function. Swelling is a warning signal. Report it to your medical provider.
#4 Eat Foods Low in Salt
Eat foods that are fresh, colorful and unprocessed. Salt hides out in a lot of foods we might think are healthy. Foods like sauces, frozen meals, canned goods — even the ones that claim to be healthy or say “lower sodium” — have too much salt, often 300 mg of sodium in a half cup! We have some quick and easy tips on how to reduce your salt intake in this recent Marquis blog.
#5 Watch and Record Your Daily Fluid Intake
Too much fluid forces the heart to work extra hard to pump the excess fluid volume. This can increase your symptoms: shortness of breath, weight gain, bloating and swelling of the feet or legs. Count all fluids you consume: water, coffee, tea, juice, milk and soft drinks, even fluids in foods that become liquid at room temperature. Those include soups, popsicles, frozen yogurt and ice cream. (Yes, we know. Including ice cream…that just isn’t fair!) What to do about dry mouth? Hard, sugar-free candy, a lemon wedge, frozen orange sections, frozen grapes or gum can help. Oddly, frequent brushing of your teeth also alleviates dry mouth.
#6 Balance Activity and Rest Periods
Your medical provider, nurse, physical therapist or occupational therapist can help you develop an exercise and activity plan that works on muscle strength and flexibility. They will also teach you how to plan rest periods around any symptoms, like shortness of breath.
#7 Determine Which Heart Zone You’re in — Every Day
Knowing when to call your doctor is as easy as knowing these three color zones –– green, yellow and red.
- The Green Zone
This is your goal. Your symptoms are under control. You’re not experiencing any shortness of breath; weight gain of 2 pounds in a 24 hour period; ankle, leg or stomach swelling; or chest pain.
- The Yellow Zone
This is your warning zone. Call your doctor or home health nurse if you experience weight gain of 2 pounds or more in a 24 hour period or 5 pounds or more in one week (If your weight increases 2 pounds or more in a 24 hour period or 5 pounds or more in 1 week, notify your doctor or nurse); increased shortness of breath and difficulty breathing when lying down; increased swelling of your feet, ankles, legs or stomach; dry cough; dizziness; or an uneasy, “something’s not right” feeling.
- The Red Zone
This is the emergency zone. Go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately if you’re struggling to breath; or experiencing unrelieved shortness of breath while sitting still, chest pain, confusion and inability to think clearly.
Journaling your symptoms and progress is empowering! As Bill found and studies show, determined, consistent, self-management of your health, gets you back to the real business of life — or as we say at Marquis, gets you back to “living your best life!”