6 Signs of Heart Failure
September 07, 2023
Heart failure is a serious medical condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, leading to a variety of symptoms and potential complications. Although there has been progress made in the treatment of many forms of heart disease, heart failure continues to be a prevalent and life-threatening condition – nearly 6.2. million adults in the U.S. have heart failure. Recognizing the signs of heart failure is crucial for early detection and timely intervention. We talked to Ruth Skinner, APRN at the Renown Institute for Heart & Vascular Health, about recognizing common signs and symptoms of heart failure.
Heart Failure Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of heart failure may be subtle and can be mistaken for normal signs of aging. Common symptoms of heart failure are due to extra fluid or congestion – typically starting with congestion of the lungs, then moving to different parts of the body. Common heart failure symptoms include:
- Breathing Difficulties (Dyspnea): One of the hallmark symptoms of heart failure is shortness of breath during daily activities and having trouble breathing when lying down.
- Fatigue and Weakness: Because heart failure can lead to reduced blood flow to the body’s tissue, patients may find themselves becoming tired and weak even during routine activities.
- Swelling (Edema): Fluid retention in the body can cause noticeable swelling. Weight gain along with swelling of the feet, legs, ankles or stomach is often a key sign of worsening heart failure.
- Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat: Heart failure can disrupt the heart's electrical signals, causing irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) or a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia). These can be felt as palpitations or fluttering sensations in the chest.
- Persistent Cough or Wheezing: Fluid buildup in the lungs triggers a persistent cough, sometimes accompanied by pink or white mucus.
- Loss of Appetite or Nausea: Heart failure can affect blood flow to the digestive system, leading to symptoms like loss of appetite and nausea.
If you or a loved one experiences any of the above signs and symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention promptly.
Heart Failure Risk Factors
Understanding the causes and risk factors for heart failure is essential for early detection, prevention and proactive management. Common risk factors include:
- Age: Although heart failure can happen at any age, it becomes more common in people as they get older. This risk of heart failure increases dramatically after the age of 65.
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Coronary artery disease (CAD)
- Valvular Heart Diseases
Unhealthy behaviors can also increase your risk for heart failure. These behaviors include:
- Smoking tobacco
- Eating foods high in fat, cholesterol and sodium
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Substance abuse