Heart Failure: After Your Hospital Stay

Being in the hospital for heart failure can be a hard and scary experience. Once you’re back at home, you may worry about your health. Here’s how you can stay healthy and prevent the problems that can lead to a stay in the hospital.

Eat healthy foods

You’ll need to consume less salt and sodium. These tips can help:

  • Try to eat fewer fast foods and packaged foods, such as canned soups, frozen meals, and snack foods. These are high in sodium. Don't eat anything brined, such as pickles or olives.

  • Stay away from canned vegetables. These are often high in sodium, even if they don't taste salty. Frozen vegetables are generally preferred, so long as no salt was added.

  • Don't add salt to your food. A good rule is that if a condiment, such as soy sauce, tastes salty, it probably has too much sodium. Don't use it.

  • Always read food labels to see how much sodium is in the product. Don't eat foods high in saturated fat.

  • Ask your healthcare provider whether it’s safe for you to drink alcohol.

  • Limit the number of meals you eat out. These can be very high in sodium. When you do eat out, ask that your dishes be made without added salt. 


Manage medicines

Know what each of your medicines is for, when to take it, and how much to take. Find out whether you should keep taking all the medicines you were taking before you were admitted to the hospital. If a medicine type or dose has changed, taking previously prescribed medicines may cause problems. It’s a good idea for a family member to know this information, too.

To help you remember when to take your medicines, use a timer that rings or vibrates, or get a divided pillbox. Or set your smartphone alarm. Bring a current list of all your medicines, including doses and when you take them, to each healthcare provider's visit. If you don't have a list, bring all your pill bottles. Also, let your healthcare provider know about all over-the-counter medicines, herbal medicines, and dietary supplements you take. Don't miss any doses of medicines. If you keep skipping or missing medicines, you can end up back in the hospital. 

Weigh yourself

One of the best ways to tell if your treatment is working is to use your bathroom scale. Sudden weight gain may be a sign that your heart is having trouble. A change in medicine may be all you need to get you back on track. Weigh yourself every day, or as often as your healthcare provider tells you to. Call your healthcare provider if you gain more than 2 pounds in a day, 5 pounds in a week, or another amount that your healthcare provider has asked you to report.

Check blood pressure

By checking your blood pressure at home, you can catch problems early. Your healthcare provider or pharmacist can help you choose a home monitor and show you how to use it. Ask your healthcare provider what your blood pressure numbers should be and when to call them if your numbers are high.

Balance activity and rest

Make time in your day for naps and putting your feet up. You may need to start small with exercise, such as walking to the mailbox and back. Work with your healthcare provider to make a plan for safe exercise.

Online Medical Reviewer: Callie Tayrien RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robyn Zercher FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2024
Licensed PDQ® from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).