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What are the warning signs of congestive heart failure?

Call your healthcare provider to find out how to prevent the following heart failure symptoms from becoming severe:

  • Not feeling well
  • Weight is up 2 or more pounds in one day or up 5 pounds over your target weight
  • Noticeable swelling or bloating
  • Some difficulty breathing with activity and at night
  • Symptoms are worsening

Call your healthcare provider or go directly to the emergency room if you have the following symptoms. Do not try to treat these yourself.

  • Breathlessness or chest heaviness at rest
  • Weight is up more than 5 pounds in one day
  • Fainting
  • Symptoms are severe
Linda Rohyans
Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist

These warning signs may be due to congestive heart failure. If you experience any of these symptoms, please share this with your doctor!

  • Chest Pain. The heart has to work harder to keep up with the demands of your body; when this demand exceeds the supply of blood the heart can deliver, the heart muscle becomes starved which causes discomfort. If you have plaque build-up in your heart’s vessels, chest pain occurs because of this blockage.
  • Shortness of Breath. Blood backs up or congests in the lungs, causing difficulty breathing with activity, at rest, or while sleeping. This can be sudden and wake you up from sleep; you need more pillows, or you have to sleep in a recliner.
  • Fatigue. The body diverts blood away from the muscles in your legs to your vital organs, so you may feel tired or run down; you have to stop many times during an activity to rest. Shopping, carrying groceries, climbing stairs, or walking is tiring.
  • Fainting. You may feel lightheaded if your heart is not able to pump what the body needs. This causes a low blood pressure and not enough blood gets to your brain. Irregular heart rhythms can cause you to feel dizzy.
  • Confusion. You may experience impaired thinking or disorientation. The brain may not receive the amount of blood it needs to fuction. The substances in the blood changes which also cause confusion.
  • Rapid Heart Rate. You may feel like your heart is racing or beating
    irregular. The heart has to beat faster to “make up for” the loss in the heart’s pumping capacity. Abnormal heart rhythms may develop.
  • Weight Gain. The tissues in your body “hold on” to excess fluid, which cause you to gain weight rapidly – this is water weight; you should keep track of your daily weight.
  • Cough. When fluid builds up in the lungs, this causes you to cough. The cough may produce white or discolored mucous; you may “wheeze” when you breathe.
  • Edema. Because the heart’s pumping action is weaker, you may
    see excess fluid that appears as swelling in the abdomen, legs, feet, or ankles; your belt or shoes may feel tighter than usual, or your socks leave imprints in your skin.
  • Loss of Appetite. You may "feel full” and not hungry, or you may get sick to your stomach. Because blood is diverted to the vital organs, the digestive system receives less blood; this causes problems with digestion.

Warning signs are just that—they are a signal that you need to pay attention to your body!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.