February has the market cornered when it comes to matters of the heart — from Valentine’s Day to being named American Heart Month. Moreover, February 8 – 14 is National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week, devoted to recovering from and reducing the effects of heart disease with the help of special programs. After a cardiac event, hospitalization, or new diagnosis, many patients begin personalized rehab programs aiming to improve heart function, overall health, and quality of life; these programs can begin on an inpatient or outpatient basis with supervision, but may then relocate to the home to be completed more independently.
In honor of Cardiac Rehabilitation Week, and the work that Residential Home Health nurses and therapists do with their exceptional in-home cardiac rehab patients every day of the year, our topic today highlights a crucial aspect of heart health: weight management. In addition to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, successful weight self-monitoring can further empower cardiac rehab patients to improve their heart health at home. Keep reading to learn why the scale can be such a vital tool for cardiac health, and get tips for more accurate and consistent weigh-ins.
Weight and Cardiac Rehabilitation
Some patients may be instructed to lose weight as part of their cardiac rehabilitation program, and will be watching for the number to slowly drop down as they progress. For others, such as patients with heart failure or recent heart surgery, sudden weight gain — from one day to the next, or from week to week — can be a critical early indicator that something is wrong. But no matter what the desired outcome is, patients must be able to weigh themselves accurately in order to recognize it.
Tips for Better Weight-Watching
Weight is not a hard and fast measurement: it rises and falls over the course of each day, and not every scale is the same. This is why health tracking focuses on the ‘trend’ — that is, whether that number has gone up or down over time. And the key to identifying trends is consistency: weighing in at the same time of day, in the same manner, every time. Measuring what’s called a ‘dry weight,’ without excess fluids, foods, or other variables that could throw off a patient’s actual weight, is the most effective way to maximize consistency. The following tips can help you get accurate results on the scale:
- Weigh in as often as your condition dictates. Patients with heart failure need to weigh themselves every single day in order to detect the overnight or short-term spikes that signal a problem. If the goal is simply weight loss, it may be more appropriate to weigh in every few days, or even weekly, to better highlight the downward trend. Ask your doctor or nurse about the best weigh-in routine for your situation.
- Get a user-friendly, quality scale. A digital scale will be more reliable than an older-model spring scale. Also ensure that the numbers on the readout are large enough for you to easily read and record.
- Use the same scale every time. Someone else’s scale may give you a considerably different measurement. The only way to identify trends is to always use your own scale. (By the same token, don’t fret if your weight at the doctor’s office or rehab facility seems off.)
- Weigh in on a hard, flat surface. Placing the scale on a rug or carpeted floor can throw off the accuracy of your reading.
- Check your weight first thing in the morning, after using the bathroom, but before eating. Weighing yourself at the same time of day minimizes the changes brought about by eating and drinking. When you first wake up, you use the bathroom, and you’ve gone a long time without eating — making the conditions optimal to get your dry weight.
- Wear the same clothing to weigh yourself. Clothing can add to your weight by as much as a few pounds. Ideally, you’ll weigh yourself wearing as little as possible, but the most important thing is to be consistent.
- Don’t use balancing aids. Leaning on a walker or countertop can make your weight reading inaccurate, so always weigh yourself while free-standing. If you have trouble balancing on the scale, consult with your doctor or nurse.
Residential Home Health offers expert services in managing numerous cardiopulmonary challenges, including heart failure and COPD. Residential’s exclusive Cardiopulmonary Hospital Admit Management Program (CHAMP) incorporates early intervention, daily vital sign monitoring, and health coaching to improve patients’ safety, independence, and quality of life and reduce their risk of returning to the hospital.
Learn more about CHAMP, or call 866-902-4000 to speak with a Residential Home Health nurse today.