6 Signs of Heart Failure

June 08, 2021

Just like any muscle, your heart needs exercise to stay strong. But over time, it can weaken. When the heart can’t pump enough blood efficiently, there’s a build-up of fluid, called congestion, that leads to symptoms of heart failure. 

Know These Signs 

Knowing the signs of congestive heart failure (CHF) can help with early treatment and management. Some of the signs of CHF include: 

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea) happens when the heart can’t cope with the amount of incoming blood or fluid. It’s commonly experienced when doing strenuous activities or even when you’re sleeping. 

  • Buildup of fluid in your body tissues (edema) can occur as a result of backed-up blood flow. This causes swelling in the body tissues that may affect the abdomen, feet, hands, legs and ankles. 

  • Chronic cough or wheezing happens due to the fluid buildup and congestion of blood flow. 

  • Fatigue occurs because CHF puts more strain on your body to perform its duties, causing it to tire easily. 

  • Elevated heart rate happens when your heart is working harder to maintain its function. 

  • Impaired thinking is related to the heart being unable to distribute blood effectively, leading to low brain oxygen levels. 

Risk Factors for Heart Failure 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 percent of Americans have three of the top risk factors for CHF. Some of the risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure. Narrows the arteries, making it difficult for blood to flow to the heart.

  • Obesity. Also a risk factor for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.

  • Diabetes. High blood sugar damages your arteries over time.

  • High cholesterol. Buildup of unhealthy blood cholesterol in the arteries could affect blood flow to the heart.

Some lifestyle behaviors that could increase your risk include:

  • Smoking.

  • A diet high in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat.

  • Drinking alcohol excessively.

  • Not getting enough exercise and being sedentary. 

Heart Failure Is Treatable 

A heart failure diagnosis can be scary, but regularly updating your doctor about your condition can help you to cope. 

It’s also important to follow your treatment. Common treatment for CHF includes:

  • Medication to treat the signs of heart failure or conditions that caused it.

  • Surgery to treat defects, such as a blocked artery or valve.

  • Devices or implants that can improve heart function as well as treat arrythmias related to heart failure.

  • Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, managing fluid intake to prevent retention, eating a heart-healthy diet and maintaining your weight.

Prioritize Heart Health 

As with many serious conditions, prevention is best. Take care of your overall health by quitting smoking, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also important to control your blood pressure with regular checkups. 

If you experience any of the signs of heart failure, particularly if you have a family history of it, talk to your doctor immediately. Seek emergency care if you have severe chest pain, a rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath.


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