People with heart failure (HF) often tire easily, especially if they exert themselves. In HF, the heart is swollen with fluids and cannot beat efficiently. The body’s cells then become hungry for oxygen. If your loved one has HF, you witness this in his or her fatigue, shortness of breath, and frequent naps.
Even with HF, however, your relative needs to be physically active. Physical activity helps the heart muscle gain strength. It improves circulation. It helps with weight control, and, oddly, with reducing fatigue. Exercise also helps with depression, which is common in HF.
Pacing is the key. Talk with the doctor about optimal forms of physical activity. Initially, walking, swimming, or biking may be recommended. As HF progresses, simple tasks, such as taking a shower or cooking a meal, may qualify as exercise. Ask the doctor for a prescription to work with a cardiac rehab team to create an activity plan tailored to your loved one’s needs.
Conserving energy. Think of personal energy as a tank of gas. With HF, your relative has a small tank and needs to be “fuel efficient.” Conserving energy when doing chores leaves more “in the tank” for doing things that bring joy and meaning.
- Alternate periods of activity with periods of rest. Divide large chores into smaller tasks throughout the day or across the week.
- Avoid rushing. It wastes energy.
- Work smarter. Minimize trips up or down stairs. Cook large quantities of food and freeze for heating later. Instead of towel drying, slip on a terry cloth bathrobe after bathing.
- Get help for mundane tasks. Have groceries and prescriptions delivered.
- Create workstations that permit cooking, grooming, dressing, bathing while seated.
- Use a cart or walker with a basket for carrying things from place to place.
- Avoid bending or reaching. Use extenders.