When Should I Get Emergency Care
Go to the ER or call 911 if you have:
- New, unexplained, and severe chest pain that comes with shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, or weakness
- Fast heart rate , especially if you are short of breath
- Shortness of breath that doesn’t get better if you rest
- Sudden weakness, or you can’t move your arms or legs
- Sudden, severe headache
- Fainting spells
You Feel Dizzy Or Lightheaded
A lot of things can make you lose your balance or feel faint for a moment. Maybe you didnât have enough to eat or drink, or you stood up too fast.
But if you suddenly feel unsteady and you also have chest discomfort or shortness of breath, call a doctor right away.
It could mean your blood pressure has dropped because your heart isnt able to pump the way it should, Bufalino says.
Faces Of Heart Failure
Heart failure occurs when something damages the heart muscle or reduces the heart’s ability to pump effectively. Most often, the damage stems from coronary artery disease or heart attack. But faulty heart valves, longstanding high blood pressure, or genetic disease may also be to blame. No matter what the cause, the failing heart can no longer pump well enough to keep up with the body’s demand for oxygen-rich blood.
To help both doctors and patients quickly spot a possible combination of heart failure symptoms, the Heart Failure Society of America developed a handy tool that goes by the acronym FACES.
F = Fatigue. When the heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the body’s energy needs, a general feeling of tiredness or fatigue sets in.
A = Activity limitation. People with heart failure are often unable to do their normal activities because they become easily tired and short of breath.
C = Congestion. Fluid buildup in the lungs can result in coughing, wheezing, and breathing difficulty.
E = Edema or ankle swelling. When the heart doesn’t have enough pumping power to force used blood back up from the lower extremities, fluid can collect in the ankles, legs, thighs, and abdomen. Excess fluid can also cause rapid weight gain.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Failure
There are various stages of heart failure, and each stage can present differently from person to person. For example, the first stage indicates you have known heart failure risk factors but dont have symptoms yet, while stage four means you may notice heart failure symptoms even when resting.
There is also acute heart failure or chronic heart failure . Chronic heart failure can be treated well with medical therapy, and you may not have any symptoms unless there is an acute problem, Joyce W. Wald, D.O., a cardiologist and professor of clinical medicine at Penn Medicine who specializes in heart failure, tells SELF. But acute heart failure will often cause symptoms until you get the proper treatment.
In fact, if you have a mild form of heart failure in an early stage, its common to not notice any warning signs unless youre doing something physically demanding, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . But if heart failure progresses and the organ becomes weaker, you may notice some signs that the condition is becoming worse. Here are the symptoms of heart failure cardiologists typically watch for:
If youre not getting enough blood flow in different areas of your body, you will have trouble working out, Dr. Wald explains. Excess fluid in your lungs can also make exercising feel especially difficult, she says.
Can Surgery Be Used To Treat Heart Failure
In heart failure, surgery may sometimes prevent further damage to the heart and improve the heart’s function. Procedures used include:
- Coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. The most common surgery for heart failure caused by coronary artery disease is . Although surgery is more risky for people with heart failure, new strategies before, during, and after surgery have reduced the risks and improved outcomes.
- Heart valve surgery. Diseased heart valves can be treated both surgically and non-surgically .
- Implantable left ventricular assist device . The LVAD is known as the “bridge to transplantation” for patients who haven’t responded to other treatments and are hospitalized with severe systolic heart failure. This device helps your heart pump blood throughout your body. It allows you to be mobile, sometimes returning home to await a heart transplant. It may also be used as destination therapy for long-term support in patients who are not eligible for transplant.
- Heart transplant. A heart transplant is considered when heart failure is so severe that it doesn’t respond to all other therapies, but the person’s health is otherwise good.
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Swelling In The Legs Ankles Or Feet
If you notice unexplained swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet, you could have edema, which the Cleveland Clinic defines as swelling that is caused by fluid trapped in your bodys tissues. Though not always, edema is often caused by congestive heart failure because your heart lacks the pumping power to force used blood back up from your lower extremities.
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Never Ignore These 11 Heart Symptoms
If something went wrong with your heart, would you know it?
Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs. There is not always an alarming chest clutch followed by a fall to the floor like you see in movies. Some heart symptoms donât even happen in your chest, and itâs not always easy to tell whatâs going on.
If youre not sure, get it checked out, says Charles Chambers, MD, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute.
Thatâs especially true if you are 60 or older, are overweight, or have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, says Vincent Bufalino, MD, an American Heart Association spokesman. The more risk factors you have, he says, the more you should be concerned about anything that might be heart-related.
Especially watch out for these problems:
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Heart Disease: 12 Warning Signs That Appear On Your Skin
Warning signs can appear on your skin and nails, which is why your dermatologist may be the first doctor to notice that you have heart disease. If you know what to look for, you can also find warning signs of heart disease on your skin and nails. The following pictures show you what to look for.
Swelling in your feet and lower legsWhat it may be telling you: Your heart isnt working properly.Many diseases of the heart cause fluid to build up in your feet and lower legs. As the fluid builds up, you may see swelling, which can extend as far as the upper legs and groin.Medical name: Edema
Blue or purple color on your skinWhat it may be telling you: You have a blockage in a blood vessel.When youre extremely cold, your skin can turn blue . If an area of your skin is blue when youre warm, thats can be a sign your blood isnt getting enough oxygen. The patient in this photo has a condition known as blue toe syndrome, which happens when one or more blood vessels are blocked.Without treatment, the lack of oxygen can cause the skin and underlying tissue to eventually die.Medical name: Cyanosis
Nails curve downward and the ends of your fingers are swollenWhat it may be telling you: You may have a heart infection, heart disease, or lung problem.For many people, these signs are harmless. That said, if your fingers and nails look like this, its best to find out if you may have a medical condition, such as lung disease or a heart problem.Medical name: Clubbing
Your Legs Feet And Ankles Are Swollen
This could be a sign that your heart doesnât pump blood as effectively as it should.
When the heart can’t pump fast enough, blood backs up in the veins and causes bloating.
Heart failure can also make it harder for the kidneys to remove extra water and sodium from the body, which can lead to bloating.
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What Is A Heart Attack
Heart attack signs and symptoms in men and women: Chest pain or discomfort Shortness of breath Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, arm, or shoulder Feeling nauseous, light-headed, or unusually tired.
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, happens when a part of the heart muscle doesnt get enough blood.
The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle.
Coronary artery disease is the main cause of heart attack. A less common cause is a severe spasm, or sudden contraction, of a coronary artery that can stop blood flow to the heart muscle.
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What Is The Outlook With Heart Failure
With the right care, congestive heart failure wont stop you from doing the things you enjoy. Your prognosis, or outlook for the future, will depend on:
- How well your heart muscle is working.
- How well you respond to your treatment plan.
- How well you follow your treatment plan.
One study says that people with heart failure have a life span 10 years shorter than those who dont have heart failure. Another study showed that the survival rates of people with chronic heart failure were 80% to 90% for one year, but that dropped to 50% to 60% for year five and down to 30% for 10 years.
A different study found that people who had heart failure and were discharged from the hospital had expected life spans ranging from three to 20 years, depending on various factors like age and gender. Its important to look at your specific situation when considering your prognosis.
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Early And Subtle Symptoms Also Can Be Harbingers Of Worsening
For the more than 6 million Americans that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says have heart failure, a new report from heart health experts could provide an invaluable early warning.
The American Heart Association published new research in its medical journal Circulation on Thursday, listing some of the most common early heart failure symptoms individuals should look out for.
Specifically, the AHA listed symptoms associated with acute coronary syndrome, heart failure, valvular disorders, stroke, rhythm disorders, and peripheral vascular disease. Heart failure, generally speaking, happens when the organ simply cant pump enough blood to the rest of the body but warning signs could increase the likelihood that patients could get ahead of the condition with medication, surgery or lifestyle changes.
Early and subtle symptoms also can be harbingers of worsening and impending hospitalization or death, the AHA said in its report.
Heres a quick list of early warning signs the organization wants folks to pay attention to:
Fatigue was listed as the most common symptom.
Gastrointestinal symptoms like an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
Shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea
Combined, fatigue and breathlessness can lead to a lack of activity and therefore muscle wasting, which the AHA says is an indicator that heart failure in a patient is getting worse
When To Get Medical Advice
See your GP if you experience persistent or gradually worsening symptoms of heart failure.
The symptoms can be caused by other, less serious conditions, so its a good idea to get them checked out.
Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest accident and emergency department as soon as possible if you have sudden or very severe symptoms.
This is a medical emergency that may require immediate treatment in hospital.
Page last reviewed: 19 May 2022 Next review due: 19 May 2025
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Heart Failure Treatment Is A Team Effort
Heart failure management is a team effort, and you are the key player on the team. Your heart doctor will prescribe your medications and manage other medical problems. Other team members — including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise specialists, and social workers — will help you achieve success. But it is up to YOU to take your medications, make dietary changes, live a healthy lifestyle, keep your follow-up appointments, and be an active member of the team.
If you notice anything unusual, don’t wait until your next appointment to discuss it with your doctor. Call them right away if you have:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, or belly that gets worse
- Shortness of breath that gets worse or happens more often, especially if you wake up feeling that way
- Bloating with a loss of appetite or nausea
- Extreme fatigue or more trouble finishing your daily activities
- A lung infection or a cough that gets worse
- Fast heart rate
- New irregular heartbeat
What Is The Outlook For People With Heart Failure
With the right care, heart failure may not stop you from doing the things you enjoy. Your prognosis or outlook for the future will depend on how well your heart muscle is functioning, your symptoms, and how well you respond to and follow your treatment plan.
Everyone with a long-term illness, such as heart failure, should discuss their desires for extended medical care with their doctor and family. An “advance directive” or “living will” is one way to let everyone know your wishes. A living will expresses your desires about the use of medical treatments to prolong your life. This document is prepared while you are fully competent in case you are unable to make these decisions at a later time.
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What Are The Common Early Symptoms Of Heart Failure In Adults
Most of the common symptoms of heart failure are also associated with other conditions.
But if you have any symptoms that are recurrent or persistent, or if you have two or more common early signs of heart failure, its a good idea to seek medical care. A medical professional can assess your symptoms and determine if heart failure is the cause.
Common early symptoms of heart failure include:
- shortness of breath
- trouble sleeping, or sleeping on extra pillows
- waking up at night short of breath
- loss of appetite or nausea
- heart palpitations
Next, well explain a bit more about why each of these symptoms can be caused by heart failure.
Doctor’s Notes On Heart Failure Early Signs And Symptoms
Heart failure is a condition where the heart muscle is unable to adequately pump blood through the body blood backs up and puts pressure on the blood vessels that cause water to leak out into the tissues of the body and cause signs and symptoms. Heart failure can occur in the right ventricle or the left ventricle of the heart. The following are 8 signs or symptoms of right heart failure and left heart failure:
- Right heart failure symptoms include
- weight gain that can occur gradually or quickly,
- leg swelling and/or peripheral edema and
- increased urination.
The causes of all of the symptoms and signs of heart failure are due to the heart muscles inability to adequately pump blood into the arteries that results in an accumulation of fluid within body tissues.
What are the treatments for early heart failure?
The treatments for early heart failure are mainly medications that lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, decrease fluids and improve heart functions. The general medical categories with some examples include:
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When To Schedule A Medical Appointment
Talk with a medical professional if you notice any symptoms of heart failure. While having just one of these symptoms might not indicate heart failure, its still worth bringing up with a doctor, especially if youre at risk for heart failure.
If you notice any of the symptoms discussed above, monitor them to see how long they last. If your symptoms lasts for more than a week or two, or if you develop multiple symptoms, make an appointment as soon as possible.
Early treatment can prevent complications and help you stay healthy.
There are several risk factors for heart failure. Any one of these risk factors can lead to heart disease. Your risk goes up when you have a combination of factors.
The risk factors for heart failure include:
What Is The Importance Of Ejection Fraction
Your ejection fraction is one way to measure the severity of your condition. If its below normal, it can mean that you have heart failure. Your ejection fraction tells your healthcare provider how good of a job your left or right ventricle is doing at pumping blood. Usually, your EF number is talking about how much blood your left ventricle is pumping out because its your heart’s main pumping chamber.
Several non-invasive tests can measure your EF. With this information, your healthcare provider can decide how to treat you or find out if a treatment is working as it should.
A normal left ventricular ejection fraction is 53% to 70%. An LVEF of 65%, for example, means that 65% of the total amount of blood in your left ventricle is pumped out with each heartbeat. Your EF can go up and down, based on your heart condition and how well your treatment works.
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Do You Know The Early Signs Of Heart Failure
About 900,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with heart failure every year. More than half of those diagnosed are women, and 56% of the people who die from heart failure are women.
Heart failure can happen to anyone. More than 6 million Americans live with it. Thats why its so important to recognize the early signs and get the treatment you need. The earlier heart failure is treated, the more likely the treatment will be effective.