Symptoms of Heart Failure
Heart failure is a health problem that gets worse over time. Symptoms may not appear for some time. At first, the body and heart are able to make up for decreased heart functions and there may not be any symptoms. Over time, the heart failure worsens. The decreasing heart function can make it harder to move fluid and oxygen throughout the body. This can cause:
- Shortness of breath, especially with activity, or when lying down
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
- Fatigue and weakness
- Lasting cough or a wheezing cough that may also have white or blood-tinged phlegm
- Rapid weight gain as a result of fluid accumulation
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Change in urine production, which may include an increase, decrease, or need to urinate at night
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased alertness
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Over time, heart failure can lead to other problems such as:
- Cardiomyopathy—Structural changes in the heart muscle caused by excess load on the heart.
- Heart arrhythmias—Irregular heartbeats make it harder to keep chronic heart failure stabilized. Heart arrhythmias can also lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
- Liver failure—Excess fluid build-up affects how the liver works. It may also cause the liver to enlarge.
- Kidney failure—Reduced blood flow to the kidneys results in fluid retention, leading to swelling. It also raises blood pressure, forcing the heart to work harder.
- Stroke—Reduced blood flow to the brain and higher blood pressure can cause a stroke.
- Heart failure facts and information. Heart Failure Society of America website. Available at: https://hfsa.org/patient-hub/heart-failure-facts-information.
- Heart failure signs and symptoms. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/warning-signs-of-heart-failure.
- Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/heart-failure-with-reduced-ejection-fraction.
- Symptoms. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart-failure/symptoms.
- Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
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