Heart Failure Health Information

Taking care of yourself

Taking care of your health is very important when you have heart failure. It affects how well your treatments work and how you feel each day.

The goal is to keep your symptoms from getting worse and to enjoy life. Here are some ways to take charge of your health.

Notice if something is different

Learn to listen to your body. If your symptoms get worse, you will know it, and you can get help and support quickly.

Keep track of your medications

Know your medications and take them on a regular schedule. Set up a system, such as a pill box with sections for different times or an alarm on your phone. Keeping a list or pictures of your pill bottles on your phone is also a great idea.

Check with your care team if you have a side effect that you think might be from a medication.

Keep track of fluid and salt

It is important to control how much fluid, or liquid, you drink when you have heart failure. It is also important to control how much salt (sodium) you get each day.

Many foods have a lot of salt in them. So, you may have to get used to eating differently than before. But you can still have a tasty diet. Learn to read labels on food packages. The amount of salt is usually marked “sodium.” It can be in foods that do not taste salty to you. Talk with your health care team about how much sodium you should get each day.

Weigh yourself every day

Weigh yourself at the same time each day, and keep track of the number. Use your own scale at home. We suggest doing this every morning after you use the bathroom. Wear the same clothing every time you weigh yourself.

Exercise and enjoy physical activity

You have to move to improve! Exercise in a way you feel comfortable with and enjoy, such as taking a walk. Exercise is safe for people with heart failure. Your health and fitness may even get better.

If you get too tired, hot and sweaty or have any other discomfort during exercise, have a rest or slow down.

Manage your moods

You may feel stressed by knowing you have heart failure, or for other reasons. Depression can also happen when you have heart failure. Talk with your doctor or someone else on your health care team if you feel anxious or depressed. They can help you find options to feel better. Remember, your goal is to live well and pursue your dreams.

Have an action plan!

Green Zone: All clear

Your symptoms are under control in the Green Zone.

  • Keep taking your medications as directed.
  • Keep weighing yourself daily and watching the salt in your diet. Know your good weight!
  • Keep up with all your scheduled medical appointments.

Yellow Zone: Caution
You are in the Yellow Zone and need to call your doctor if:

  • You gain more than 3 pounds in one day or more than 5 pounds in a week.
  • You have more trouble breathing. 
  • You have swelling of your feet, ankles or stomach.
  • Your heart seems to beat fast or “flutter” more.
  • You have chest pain when you did not before, or you have more than usual. 

Red Zone: Medical alert

You are in the Red Zone and must call 911 if:

  • You are struggling to breathe or have trouble getting your breath when you are resting, such as sitting quietly or lying down.
  • You have severe chest pain, or chest pain that lasts more than 15 minutes.
  • You faint (pass out or lose consciousness).
  • You cannot think clearly.


Your OHSU Heart Failure team is your main resource for heart failure help and information. This page has some of the resources we recommend for you and your family. If you have questions, talk with a member of your heart failure team.

Call the clinic at 503-494-7400 to make an appointment.

Doctors and other health care providers may call the referral hotline at 503-494-4567 or 1-503-494-7400 for to refer patients to the outpatient clinic. Our fax for outpatient referrals is 503-494-4749.

Heart Failure Society of America: A website with information for patients, families and health care providers. Find patient information at hfsa.org

American Heart Association: This organization has detailed information for patients, families and health care providers at heart.org

HeartFailure.org: A website designed for patients living with heart failure and their families at heartfailure.org

OHSU Clinical Transplant Services

United Network of Organ Sharing: This is the non-profit organization that works with the United States government to manage the nation’s transplant system. You can find lots of information about transplant on this website.

International Society of Heart and Lung Transplant

Scientific Registry of Transplant RecipientsThis organization provides data on transplant programs in the United States. The information includes how many transplants each program has done and the patients’ results.

Mended Hearts: A nonprofit organization that helps people with heart disease, their caregivers and families. Visit mendedhearts.org or call 503-418-1968 for to contact the Portland chapter of this group.

Caregiver Action Network at caregiveraction.org

Family Caregiver Alliance at caregiver.orgThis organization has online support groups and other resources specifically for family caregivers.

American Heart Association: Check out the Healthy Eating section for great tips and recipes.

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Look at the Eat Right section for a full list of healthy diet advice, including how to get less salt in your diet, lose weight and meet any special diet needs

You can find many heart-healthy recipes online, including tips for making favorite dishes and comfort foods with less salt. Here are two of our favorite sites, but there are many others. Let us know your favorites!

Cooking Light: Online version of a popular magazine with ways to make favorite dishes healthy and try new foods. Visit cookinglight.com.

Penzeys Spices: This spice company has recipes for great-tasting food with less salt at penzeys.com.