The statistics are disheartening: 20 percent of heart failure patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, and 50 percent return within six months. Experts say some of these readmissions could be avoided.
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If you have heart failure, here are the top 4 things you can do to lessen the likelihood you’ll end up back in the hospital.
- Learn everything you can about heart failure. If you fully understand what heart failure is and your role in slowing its progression, the more likely you are to follow your doctor’s orders. See if heart failure education classes are available. They’re designed to teach patients and their families what they need to know about the condition, its progression, its impact on day-to-day life and the treatments you need. If they aren’t available, ask for printouts of need-to-know information.
- Know your medications. Treating heart failure requires multiple medications, and each has a specific purpose. Do not leave the hospital without understanding what your medications are for and how they should be taken. If possible, meet with a pharmacist before being discharged to understand your medications in detail. If you have questions about your meds, ask your doctor or a pharmacist.
- Work with your cardiologist. The risk of readmission starts at discharge. Being seen in the clinic within 30 days after discharge decreases this risk. “This allows your physician to identify medications that need changes in doses, to continue to make improvements to your medication regimen that maximize their benefits and to identify treatments that may be causing side effects so these can be changed,” says heart failure cardiologist Antonio Perez, MD, MBA, FACC, Director of the Heart Failure Intensive Care Unit. “The goal is to identify and prevent problems before patients get sick enough to need hospitalization.”
- Be proactive. If you develop new or worsening symptoms of heart failure, such as swollen legs or shortness of breath, call your doctor right away. These issues, if addressed early, probably can be treated over the phone or with an office visit. “If you wait for several weeks, you may need to be readmitted to improve your condition,” says Dr. Perez.
This article was adapted from Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor.