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Why does heart failure make you feel tired?

It is very common for people living with heart failure to feel tired. Daily tasks such as climbing the stairs, walking to the shops or carrying groceries can sometimes feel exhausting.

Tiredness occurs because the heart struggles to pump blood efficiently and the flow of oxygen rich blood around the body is reduced1. Oxygen is the fuel our bodies need to function and be active. So when levels are reduced, muscles don’t get the energy they need, making even everyday activities challenging. This understandably impacts daily living and can be frustrating. No-one likes feeling they can’t do things as well as they once could. Of course, some of this is a natural part of ageing, but when you have heart failure this is amplified so it’s really important you do things to help you heart.

The good news is that there are steps people living with heart failure can take to manage and maybe even raise their energy levels. Here’s our top tips for fighting fatigue2:

  • Take heart friendly exercise
    • Exercise is a fantastic way to fight fatigue – it reduces the risk of major illnesses, is free and has an immediate effect of health. Regular to moderate exercise such a walking, jogging or even chair yoga is recommended for those with heart failure and it can help to make daily activities a bit easier because the body needs less energy to carry them out2. Remember to take exercise at your own pace and if you are at all concerned about what exercise is right for you, talk to your healthcare professional about an activity program that could help you maximize your energy. Remember, exercise isn’t just for people who are sporty or typically active before getting heart failure. Exercise is for everyone and can be tailored to what you can do, whether able bodied or not. You can hear advice from two heart failure experts on exercising with heart failure here.
  • Think about what you eat
    • It is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet when living with heart failure. Food is the fuel we put into our bodies so making sure our diet doesn’t place any extra strain on our heart is key. A healthy diet should include fiber, fruits and vegetables. Be careful about your fluid intake, and cut back on things that put stress on your body like salt, alcohol and smoking. Ensuring you have a heart healthy diet should help to keep you healthy and your energy levels up. Some examples of energy-boosting foods are: bananas, salmon and oily fish, brown rice, porridge and eggs
    • Click here to find more nutritional tips.
  • Track your energy
    • Keeping a short, daily or weekly diary about your activities is a good way to monitor how your energy levels are changing overtime. It will help you see if your fitness levels are improving or if changes to your diet are having an effect. It could also help you to identify if your energy levels are dropping, in which case you and your doctor can discuss what to do.

You probably have some tried and tested ‘top tips’ of your own for managing energy levels. We would love to hear them – why not share them on our Keep It Pumping Facebook page?


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1) American Heart Association. Warning signs of heart failure. Available here: Last accessed January 2020.
2) British Heart Foundation (BHF). 5 ways to manage your heart failure. Heart Matters Magazine. Available at: Last accessed January 2020.

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