Heart Failure: Understanding Heart Failure
What are the symptoms of heart failure?
There may be times that your symptoms are mild or you may not have any symptoms at all. This does not mean you no longer have heart failure. Symptoms of heart failure can range from mild to severe, and they may come and go.
In general, heart failure gets worse over time. As it worsens, you may have more or different signs or symptoms. It is important to let your doctor know if you have new symptoms or if your symptoms get worse.
Common signs and symptoms of heart failure
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing. You may have trouble breathing when you exercise, when you are resting or when lying flat in bed. Shortness of breath happens when fluid backs up into the lungs (congestion) or when your body isn't getting enough oxygen-rich blood. If you wake up suddenly at night to sit up and catch your breath, the problem is severe and you need medical treatment.
- Feeling tired (fatigue) and leg weakness when you are active. When your heart does not pump enough oxygen-rich blood to major organs and muscles, you become tired and your legs may feel weak.
- Swelling in your ankles, legs and abdomen; weight gain. When your kidneys do not filter enough blood, your body holds onto extra fluid and water. Extra fluid in your body causes swelling edema and weight gain.
- Need to urinate while resting at night. Gravity causes more blood flow to the kidneys when you are lying down. So, your kidneys make more urine and you have the need to urinate.
- Dizziness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, fainting. You may have these symptoms because your heart is not pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats (palpitations): When your heart muscle does not pump with enough force, your heart may beat faster to try to get enough oxygen-rich blood to major organs and muscles. You may also have an irregular heartbeat if your heart is larger than normal (after a heart attack or due to abnormal levels of potassium in your blood).
- A dry, hacking cough. A cough caused by heart failure is more likely to happen when you are lying flat and you have extra fluid in your lungs.
- A full (bloated) or hard stomach, loss of appetite or upset stomach (nausea).
- Need to urinate while resting at night. Gravity causes more blood to get to the kidneys when you are lying down.
It is very important for you to manage your other health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, anemia, high blood pressure, thyroid disease and asthma or chronic lung disease. Some conditions have signs and symptoms that are similar to heart failure. If you have new or worsening non-urgent symptoms, tell our healthcare provider.