When it comes to heart failure, your doctor can do a lot of things to help and support you. But you — the patient — are in the driver's seat.
Your choices and actions can make a difference in how well you manage your heart failure symptoms.
Be sure to print the information on this page, and take it with you the next time you visit with your physician. Using these questions as a guide to discuss your condition will ensure that each aspect of your treatment is considered, by both you and your doctor.
There are several things you can do to keep heart failure from worsening, including:
- Ask your doctor questions
- Follow doctor's orders — and your treatment plan
- Stay informed about treatment options
- Live heart-healthy
When you visit your doctor, it's best to follow a "do ask, do tell" policy. Make sure that you ask questions about anything that you do not understand fully. Remember, there are no stupid questions and no wrong answers.
The following list of questions can help you get the information you need to keep yourself or your loved one on track with a recommended treatment plan.
- What's my diagnosis? Is the heart failure mild, moderate, or severe?
- How is the condition likely to progress?
- What likely caused my heart failure? How will those things be treated?
- What are some ways my daily life will change? Can I still work, play golf, have sex, baby-sit my grandkids, do yard work? (Fill in whatever activity you're wondering about.)
- What are the most important things I can do to manage this condition?
- What strategies and resources are there for lifestyle changes I need to make, like eating better, increasing exercise, quitting smoking, etc.?
- What happens if I can't make a recommended lifestyle change?
- Should I enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation program to strengthen my heart? If so, can you tell me what that involves?
- What do each of the medications I'm prescribed do to treat my heart condition?
- What side effects should I watch for with each medication I'm prescribed?
- Can any of the heart failure medicines interact with other medicines or supplements I take?
- A particular medicine is causing side effects that are hard to manage. Is there some way to relieve them? Is there another equally good medicine that might be an option?
- I am having trouble keeping the medication schedule straight. Is there any way I can simplify it?
- What should I do if symptoms get worse or change suddenly?
Your doctor will also rely on you to share information and to keep track of your symptoms between office visits. That way, you can make decisions together about when your treatment needs to be adjusted or changed. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of the following:
- Weight gain of more than a couple pounds within a day
- Sudden swelling in your legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen
- Trouble sleeping (waking up short of breath, needing more pillows to sleep comfortably)
- Increased fatigue or shortness of breath
Information for Patients about BiDil®
BiDil is approved for use with other heart medicines to treat heart failure in black patients to improve survival, improve heart failure symptoms, and help patients stay out of the hospital longer. There is little experience in patients with heart failure who experience significant symptoms while at rest. Most patients in the clinical study of BiDil also received other heart failure medicines.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
Tell your doctor about any allergies you have, especially if you're sensitive to nitrates, such as nitroglycerin tablets or isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil®). BiDil has a nitrate component, so you need to let your doctor know.
WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS
Tell your doctor if you're taking any erectile dysfunction or pulmonary hypertension drugs like Viagra® or Revatio™ (sildenafil), Levitra® (vardenafil) or Cialis® (tadalafil). Mixing these with BiDil may cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, fainting, chest pain, or heart attack.
Also tell your doctor if you are taking any medication to decrease blood pressure because when taken with BiDil, blood pressure may become too low.
It is possible you'll get headaches, especially at first, but they often lessen over time. For some patients, Tylenol® (acetaminophen) helps ease the discomfort. Keep your doctor posted on your headache progress and Tylenol use; he or she may want to adjust your dosage.
If you experience dizziness, call your doctor. Please make sure to tell your doctor about any of the signs or symptoms mentioned below or about any unusual events that worry you.
Drinking less fluids than your doctor recommends or losing fluid due to diarrhea, sweating, or vomiting may cause low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting. If fainting occurs, stop taking BiDil and contact your doctor immediately.
Lightheadedness may occur when standing, especially after sitting or lying down.
If you experience any achy and/or swollen joints, unexplained fever for more than a few days, skin rashes, chest pain, prolonged weakness or fatigue (even after a good night's sleep), or any other unexplained signs or symptoms, make sure to tell your doctor as they may be signs of a serious medical condition.
You may also experience rapid heartbeat that could lead to chest pain or aggravate chest pain, or numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
COMMON SIDE EFFECTS
Headache and dizziness were the most frequent side effects experienced in studies with BiDil. Other side effects included chest pain, weakness, nausea, chest infection, low blood pressure, sinusitis, palpitations, high blood sugar, runny nose, tingling, vomiting, impaired vision, high cholesterol, and rapid heart rate.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Please click here to see full Prescribing Information for BiDil. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your condition or your treatment. Ask your doctor if BiDil may be right for you.
Isordil is a registered trademark of Biovail Laboratories International SRL; Viagra is a registered trademark and Revatio is a trademark of Pfizer Inc.; Levitra is a registered trademark of Bayer Aktiengesellschaft and is used under license by GlaxoSmithKline; Cialis is a registered trademark of Eli Lilly and Company; Tylenol is a registered trademark of McNEIL-PPC, Inc.