Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Living with heart failure

5-minute read

Once diagnosed with heart failure there are many aspects of your life that will need to be managed to help keep you healthy. The information below provides some useful tips and contact details.

Being diagnosed with heart failure can be overwhelming, and although your outlook is related to your age, how severe your condition is and your overall health, it also depends on what you do to reduce your risk.

Self-care is an integral part of daily life with recovery. It means that you take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing with support from the people involved in your care.

It includes the things you do each day to stay fit, maintain good physical and mental health, prevent illness or accidents, and effectively deal with minor ailments and long-term conditions.

It is very important that you take any medication as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. Continuous medication can help prevent your symptoms getting worse. Speak to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the medication you are taking or any side effects.

It is also important to:

  • monitor and manage your fluid balance so you know if fluid is building up in your body
  • restrict your salt intake
  • stop smoking
  • limit your alcohol intake.

Programs and support groups

You may be able to attend a special program to help you manage heart failure. These programs usually involve a number of health professionals, such as nurses, dietitians and exercise specialists.

If you have or have had a heart condition or if you are caring for someone with a heart condition, you might find it useful to meet other people in your area who are in a similar situation. There are a number of heart support groups around Australia that organise regular exercise sessions, such as walking groups, as well as other social activities.

Your doctor, specialist, local public hospital or the Heart Foundation may be able to provide you with details about your nearest group. For more information, call Heart Foundation's health information service on 1300 36 27 87 or for patient support contact Heart Support Australia.


Coming to terms with a long-term condition such as heart failure can put a strain on you, your family and your friends. It can be difficult to talk with people about your condition, even if they are close to you. Be open about how you feel and let your family and friends know what they can do to help. But do not feel shy about telling them that you need some time to yourself.

Sex may be worrying for you if your symptoms worsen. If you are concerned you should discuss your situation with your partner and your doctor.


Being diagnosed with heart failure should not prevent you from travelling or going on holiday, as long as you feel well enough and your condition is well controlled. If you have heart failure, check with your doctor before you travel.

Anyone travelling and sitting still for a long time either in a car, coach or on a plane, should do simple exercises to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). When flying, you should wear flight socks or compression stockings to keep blood flowing through the legs and reduce the risk of DVT.

Also, be aware that your legs and ankles may swell when flying and if you have severe heart failure, breathing may become more difficult.

It may be a good idea to take two sets of medicines with you when you travel. Carry them in different places in case you lose one, and make a list of the medicines you take, and what it is for. Ensure you have your doctor update your electronic health records.

Work and financial help

If you are well enough, it is important to keep working for as long as you feel able. Staying at work with the right support can make you feel better and give you financial security.

Talk to your employer as soon as you feel that your heart failure is affecting your ability to do your job, so you can find a solution that suits both of you. For example, would it be possible for you to work part-time?

Employers should try to make reasonable adjustments to working practices or premises to help the person with the disability. This might (where possible) include:

  • changing or modifying tasks
  • altering work patterns
  • installing special equipment
  • allowing time off to attend appointments
  • help with travel to work.

If you cannot continue working because of your heart failure, you may be able to claim disability and incapacity benefits. You can get further advice and information from your doctor and Centrelink.

Aspects to think about include:
  • planning for financial decisions
  • making a will
  • enduring power of attorney
  • guardianship and administration
  • decisions about medical treatment including:

You can access more information about living with heart failure in a booklet called Living Well With Chronic Heart Failure, from the Heart Foundation.

Last reviewed: September 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Chronic Heart Failure | myVMC

Chronic heart failure occurs when the heart fails to pump sufficient blood through the body. It may occur rapidly (heart attack) or slowly.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Facts about chronic heart failure | The Heart Foundation

Chronic heart failure is a serious condition. Learn the symptoms of chronic heart disease, what happens after diagnosis and how to manage the problems it causes.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle has become too weak to pump blood through the body as effectively as normal

Read more on WA Health website

Nebilet Tablets -

Nebilet Tablets - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are common in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and often appear together. The good news is that there are effective treatments both for COPD and for anxiety and depression. With careful management, the symptoms of anxiety and depression can be treated along with those of COPD so they do not interfere with life.

Read more on Lung Foundation Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo