Thumbnail image of: Blood Flow in Heart: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Circulatory System: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Heart, External View: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Heart, Interior View: Illustration

Heart Failure Discharge Information

What is heart failure?

Heart failure (HF) means the heart is not pumping blood as well as it should. It may pump at a different speed, pump blood out with less force, or pump out less blood with each heartbeat. When less blood is flowing out of the heart to the body, muscles and other tissues may not get enough oxygen. The kidneys may not work as well to remove excess fluid in the form of urine. As a result, blood backs up into the blood vessels. The extra fluid seeps into the lungs or other parts of the body. Fluid in the lungs makes it hard to breathe. Fluid seeping into other parts of the body causes swelling. When there is too much fluid in the body, it puts even more strain on the heart. Heart failure is one of the most common causes of heart-related illness and death in the U.S.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

How long it takes to get better depends on your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. Learn how much activity you can do without making your heart work too hard. The actions you take can help keep your heart failure symptoms from getting worse.


  • Your provider will give you a list of medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins.
    • You will probably take a combination of medicines. Ask your healthcare provider about possible side effects of the drugs prescribed for you. Report any side effects to your provider right away.
    • Some of the medicines used to treat heart failure raise the levels of potassium in your blood. Tell your doctor if you have the symptoms of high potassium, which include muscle weakness, tingling, nausea, tiredness, or an irregular heartbeat.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
    • Relax and widen blood vessels and allow blood to flow through them easier
    • Reduce fluid build-up and swelling in the body
    • Help your heart muscle beat stronger and regularly
    • Help reduce blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and reduce the workload of the heart
    • Help prevent blood clots
    • Replace minerals your body loses when taking certain medicines used to treat your condition
  • Do not use salt substitutes unless your doctor tells you to. Many contain high levels of potassium, which may raise the potassium levels too much.
  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids. Follow your healthcare provider’s advice on how much liquid you should drink.
  • Weigh yourself and write down your weight every day. Weight gain may mean your body is having trouble getting rid of extra fluid.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.


  • Keep all follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for all routine testing you may need.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.
  • Ask your provider about any medicine or treatment information you do not understand.

Call your emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Chest pain or pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back (may feel like indigestion or heartburn)
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, or in your back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Trouble breathing
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat for no known reason
  • Along with the previous symptoms, feeling very tired, faint, or sick to your stomach
  • Feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or skipping beats

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have new or worsening:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sudden weight gain of 3 pounds in one day or 5 pounds in a week
  • Swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs, abdominal bloating, or swollen hands or face
  • Waking up at night with trouble breathing or having a hard time lying flat in bed because of shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C)
  • Frequent dry, hacking cough
  • Coughing up mucus that is thick or blood-stained
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-02-03
Last reviewed: 2014-10-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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