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Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure

Heart failure is the most common complication of heart disease. Fortunately, there are treatments to manage this heart problem. But it is best to get familiar first with heart failure warning signs and symptoms.

What is Heart Failure?

Despite the name of the condition, heart failure is not about your heart literally stopping from beating. Instead, it is about how the heart muscle is unable to supply oxygenated blood that is essential for the body to function well.

When you suffer from heart failure, your heart still pumps blood to all organs and cells in the body. However, it is not performing at its optimal level.

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscles become weak and stiff as a result of another underlying condition.

What Causes Heart Failure?

Heart failure is a common complication of numerous severe conditions, such as several cardiovascular problems, respiratory diseases, and blood disorders.

Here are some chronic illnesses that might cause heart failure:

  • Cardiomyopathy is a cardiovascular condition that negatively affects the heart muscle.
  • Abnormal heart valves make the heart to strenuously pump blood. It is because the heart valves don’t open or close completely in each heartbeat.
  • Myocardial infarction or a past heart attack inhibits blood and nutrients from reaching the heart, making it frail.
  • Congenital heart disease is a range of birth defects that affect the normal functioning of the heart.
  • Coronary heart disease decreases blood flow to the heart due to the blockage of cholesterol (arteriosclerosis) in the coronary arteries.
  • Severe lung disease causes the body to not get enough oxygen. Therefore, requires the heart to work twice as hard to produce more blood and meet the needed oxygen of the body.
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure causes the heart to pump blood harder than normal since the HBP hinders blood circulation.
  • Diabetes leads to heart failure because of its complications, such as hypertension and atherosclerosis.
  • Obesity may result in heart failure since obese individuals need an additional supply of blood to fill their increasing demands of nutrients and oxygen.
  • Sleep apnea causes the body to release stress hormones, which raises the blood pressure, and soon after, might lead to heart problems.

Lifestyle Changes to Improve Your Heart Health

Heart Failure Warning Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of heart failure may vary from person to person since we all have different bodies and weight. Here are the heart failure warning signs and symptoms you must watch out for:

Shortness of breath (dyspnea)

Shortness of breath while engaging in physical activities is the most common symptom of heart failure. Breathlessness may still occur even though your body is at rest. In addition, you need to lay down with an additional pillow behind your head since lying flat will obstruct your breathing.

Fatigue (extreme tiredness)

Your muscles may not be getting enough oxygen and blood from your heart since it is not efficient in pumping blood to all parts of the body. You may feel extremely tired while doing your regular routine since your muscles lack blood and oxygen.

Increased heart rate

The sympathetic nervous system tries to make up for the lack of oxygen and blood received by the brain and other parts of the body. Catecholamines are released into the bloodstream, which narrows the blood vessels and increases heart rate. The arteries simultaneously widen to carry the increased supply of blood flow to the brain and other vital parts of the body.

Swelling (edema) and weight gain

When your heart slows down in pumping blood, the blood flow backs up into the veins, causing fluid to build in your tissues. The fluid retention causes your body parts (ankles, legs, feet, and abdomen) to swell and add additional weight to your body.

Loss of appetite

Your digestive system does not receive enough blood, which results in digestive problems. This makes you feel full or sick.

Wheezing or persistent coughing

Heart failure causes fluid to build up in your lungs and airways. White or pink blood-tinged mucus may be present when coughing.

Cognitive problems

Since blood flow is inadequate, the brain will not be getting the oxygenated blood it needs to function properly. Decreased blood flow to the brain can cause cognitive problems such as confusion and memory loss.

If you experience any of these heart failure warning signs and symptoms, call your doctor immediately or head to the hospital.

Heart Failure Management and Prevention

Heart failure is a lifelong condition since it does damage your heart over time. However, there are still ways to manage it and prevent it from getting worse.

Here are some tips for heart failure management and prevention:

Eat healthily

Consuming foods that are low in sodium and saturated fat helps prevent heart failure from worsening. Healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein help your blood pressure from rising.

Exercise regularly

Doing physical exercises makes your body and heart stronger. Also, exercising regularly can help you achieve a healthy weight since obesity is one of the common causes of heart failure.

Discontinue smoking

Smoking is not good for your health, especially if you already suffer from heart failure. It is recommended that you quit smoking as soon as possible. Smoking contributes to the worsening of severe diseases.

Be aware of swelling

Check whether some parts of your body are swelling excessively or not. The swelling on your body will determine whether your condition has worsened. If this happens, inform your doctor.

Avoid stressful situations

Stress can trigger diseases that can negatively affect your heart. If you are stressed, your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels increase, worsening heart failure. As much as possible, do not put more stress on your heart.

Control of alcohol intake

If you suffer from heart failure, your doctor will most likely advise you to limit or completely avoid consuming alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages add more pressure to your heart as it can interact with your medications. It can also raise your heart rate and blood pressure.

Limit sodium intake

Excessive sodium intake can further increase high blood pressure. Immoderate consumption of sodium can also worsen water retention, thus making swelling worse.

Restrict saturated and trans fat consumption

Including too much saturated and trans fat in your diet will put you at greater risk of contracting a more serious cardiovascular disease.

Take and keep track of your medication

Make sure you take all the medications your medical provider has given you. Stick to a time and routine when it comes to taking your meds.

Ask only your doctor about additional medications that may help with your condition. Do not self medicate as it will make you more vulnerable to heart failure and aggravate heart failure warning signs and symptoms.

Monitor your weight and blood pressure

Keeping track of your weight and blood pressure will determine whether you are getting better or worse. If you notice that you have gained more weight, then your body is building up fluids. It is best to call your doctor immediately.

Key Takeaways

The heart is one of the most used vital organs in your body. Thus, taking extra measures in making sure that it is functioning properly will decrease your chances of experiencing heart failure warning signs and symptoms.

If you are currently battling this condition, make sure that you follow all of your doctor’s advice at all times. Do not self medicate or wait for the condition to worsen

Heart failure is irreversible and is considered a long-term condition. However, being well-informed on how to manage it properly will help you live a long and fruitful life.


Learn more about Heart Health, here.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Heart Failure https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_failure.htm Accessed July 5, 2020

Heart Failure https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/heart-failure Accessed June 5, 2020

Heart Failure https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373142 Accessed July 5, 2020

Overview: Heart failure https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-failure/ Accessed July 5, 2020

Heart Failure https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-failure Accessed July 5, 2020

Causes of Heart Failure https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/causes-and-risks-for-heart-failure/causes-of-heart-failure Accessed July 5, 2020

Heart Failure: Compensation by the Heart and the Body https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa86963 Accessed July 5, 2020



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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated Jul 01, 2021
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.