Daily checks for heart failure

Heart failure can cause a range of symptoms. Checking these symptoms daily is a great way for you to manage your condition well. And it will help you know when to contact your doctor or nurse for further assistance.

When your heart can’t pump or relax as well as normal, fluid may build up in parts of your body causing heart failure symptoms.

Checking for these symptoms each day is an important part of heart failure management. It’s a way for you to be confident that you’re managing your condition well. Plus, it will help you know when you need to contact your doctor or nurse for further help.

There are three main checks to do: weight, swelling and breathing.

You will need:

  • scales – digital ones are best
  • a pen and a daily checks record or a notebook
  • good lighting to check swelling.

Weight

Your doctor or heart failure nurse should have given you a ‘target weight’. This is not related to weight loss, it’s your weight when you don’t have extra fluid or swelling in your body. This is the weight you should compare yourself against each day.

Weigh yourself each day at the same time:

  • in the morning
  • after going to the toilet
  • before breakfast.

Compare your daily weight to your target weight and record it on your Daily checks record booklet. If your weight has increased or decreased by 2kg or more in the last one to two days, you’ll need to take action. 

Swelling

Press your finger on the skin just above your ankle for 5-10 seconds. If you can’t reach your ankle, anywhere below your knee is okay.

If your finger leaves a dent in your skin that doesn’t spring back immediately, you have swelling.

Perform the test on your other leg.

Next think about rings on your fingers, your waistband, your socks and your shoes. Do any of them feel tighter than normal?

Record any changes in your daily checks record.

Breathing

Breathing difficulties can be a sign that your heart failure is getting worse.

Record any of the following changes:

  • Breathing is more difficult than usual, especially when you’re lying flat or you’re moving around.
  • You’ve got a constant cough or wheeze.
  • It’s hard to speak a full sentence without stopping for a breath.
  • You need more pillows at night, or to sleep upright in a chair.

What if I notice changes?

Changes in your symptoms are a sign there’s been a change in your condition and that you may need to contact your doctor or nurse.

Our heart failure action plan helps you know when to get in touch with your health professional.

You can get an action plan in a heart failure pack, which can be ordered from our website. Or ask for one from your GP practice.  

 

Order a daily checks record Download an action plan Order a heart failure resource pack