Would You Recognize the Signs of Heart Failure?

You’re familiar with the term “heart attack,” but what about heart 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 heart failure?

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 will worsen.

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.

Categories: Blog, Heart Health