You’re familiar with the term “heart attack,” but what
failure? This condition impacts nearly 6 million American adults—and many
people don’t know much, if any, about it.
That begs the question: Would you know if you or a loved one were experiencing
Let’s talk through what
heart failure is exactly—and the symptoms you should be aware of.
Defining Heart Failure
Despite how drastic the term sounds, heart failure doesn’t mean your
heart has completely stopped working. But it does mean that your heart
isn’t working as well as it needs to.
Heart failure, often called “congestive heart failure,” means that your
heart isn’t able to pump enough blood to satisfy the body’s
needs. That can lead to parts of the body not getting the oxygen they need.
In some cases, the condition will impact only one side of the heart, but
in others, both sides are affected.
When the heart’s pumping mechanism starts to fail, the heart will
try to make up for it by pumping faster, getting bigger, and even developing
more muscle mass. The body may also divert blood away from “less
important” tissues and organs or narrow the body’s blood vessels
to keep blood pressure up.
But over time, even these measures will be ineffective and heart failure
The Symptoms of Heart Failure
Because the heart is pumping ineffectively and trying to compensate in
other ways, a person with heart failure can experience a wide range of
symptoms. While you might think they’d only impact the heart itself,
heart failure symptoms can actually affect many areas of the body.
A person with heart failure might experience:
Shortness of breath during in activity, while resting, and even during sleep
A buildup of fluid in the body
Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdominal area
Excessive fatigue, especially during routine activities like walking
A persistent cough or wheezing
Heart palpitations as the heart speeds up to compensate
A diminished appetite or nausea
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor.
Prompt diagnosis and intervention—along with regular monitoring—are
key to slowing the progress of heart failure.
Patients with heart failure require careful, regular monitoring to ensure
their symptoms don’t worsen.
If you or someone you know have the condition,
Partners in CardioVascular Health
can work with you to manage your health. Call (302) 421-4828 to learn more.