Heart failure and physical activity

By June Shannon Heart News   |   9th May 2019

Our information nurse Bernadette Bergin on the importance of people living with heart failure to keep active

The term heart failure can be frightening. A recent survey of Irish adults for the Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart failure awareness campaign ‘Don’t Ignore the Signs of Heart Failure’, found that almost half mistakenly believed that heart failure means that the heart stops beating, confusing the condition with a cardiac arrest.

The good news is that heart failure does not mean your heart is about to stop. It just means that it is not working as efficiently as it should, so it can’t meet the demands your body puts on it particularly during physical exertion. However, with the right treatment and a healthy lifestyle your symptoms can improve. Many people live active and comfortable lives with heart failure.

For people newly diagnosed with heart failure, the natural tendency would be to think they need to rest all the time and conserve all their energy. However, for most people with heart failure the opposite is true. Keeping active can help with the symptoms of heart failure and improve your physical and mental wellbeing.

Studies have shown that exercise training can improve physical performance and quality of life in people with heart failure.

"Many people live active and comfortable lives with heart failure,"

Bernadette Bergin, Information Nurse , Irish Heart Foundation

The 2016 guidelines from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) on the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic heart failure, recommend regular aerobic exercise in patients with heart failure to improve patients’ ability to carry out everyday tasks and their symptoms and to reduce the risk of hospitalisation.

It is very important to check with your doctor or specialist nurse, to see what level of activity is suitable for you and your heart failure. We all have our own individual limitations, but it is especially important when you have a medical condition to check what is suitable for you.

Keeping active helps the symptoms of heart failure by improving the body’s circulation and use of oxygen. It also helps to improve your energy levels which helps avoid tiredness and fatigue. Physical activity can help your overall muscle tone and strength, improving your balance, joint flexibility and mood.

So, start off slowly and build up gradually. There’s lots of general tips and advice for getting active on our webpage ‘Be Active’

In Ireland, physical activity assessment and training for those with a certain class of stable heart failure, is available at many, though not all, cardiac rehabilitation units. Please check availability with your doctor or specialist nurse.

More than 90,000 people in Ireland live with heart failure.

" Keeping active helps the symptoms of heart failure by improving the body’s circulation and use of oxygen,"

Bernadette Bergin, Information Nurse , Irish Heart Foundation

Heart failure is a very manageable condition if caught and treated early. Our support groups can help you cope better and feel less isolated if you suffer from heart failure.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s heart failure awareness campaign, which is supported by Novartis, aims to educate the public about the warning signs of the condition.

As part of the campaign, the Irish Heart Foundation has developed a free online symptom checker to help people identify if they are experiencing heart failure symptoms.

The heart failure symptom checker is available on the campaign website, KnowYourHeart.ie; people can use the checker and download their findings to help them discuss any concerns they may have with their GP.


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Dont ignore the signs Dont ignore the symptoms heart disease heart failure heart failure awareness know your heart

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