Open Accessibility Menu

Heart failure: the signs you should know

Heart failure: the signs you should know

What is heart failure?

The heart is a muscle that pumps oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body. When you have heart failure, the heart is not able to pump as well as it should. Blood and fluid may back up into the lungs, and some parts of the body don’t get enough oxygen-rich blood to work normally. With heart failure, not enough oxygen-rich blood leaves the heart with each beat.

Recognizing heart failure symptoms

Signs and symptoms of worsening heart failure include:

  • Rapid weight gain from fluid buildup

  • Shortness of breath, especially when lying down flat

  • Fast heart rate

  • Cough that won't go away

  • Swelling, especially in the feet (edema), legs, or abdomen

  • Tiredness (fatigue)

  • Nausea or loss of appetite

How heart failure affects your body

When the heart doesn't pump enough blood, hormones are sent to increase the amount of work the heart does. Over time, even less blood is pumped through the heart. This leads to problems throughout the body as organs start to feel the effects of a long-term lack of oxygen. If not treated, over time this can cause problems with your lungs, liver, and kidneys. A weak heart itself can eventually cause a severe decline in health and possible death if left untreated.

RELATED: Take care of your heart

What can you do to better care for your heart?

Change your diet:

Controlling the amount of salt (sodium) you eat may help stop fluid from building up. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much sodium you can eat each day. Read food labels to keep track. Eat fresh or plain frozen vegetables. These have much less salt than canned vegetables. Don’t add salt to your food when you’re cooking. Instead, season your foods with pepper, lemon, garlic, or onion.

Add movement to your routine:

Even a little movement each day helps to strengthen your heart. If you can’t get out to exercise, you can do simple stretching and strengthening exercises at home. Talk with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program. Your provider will give you specific instructions on what to do if you get overtired.

When should you schedule a visit?

If you start noticing rapid weight gain, fluid retention, shortness of breath or coughing it may be time to schedule a visit with a cardiologist. For more information on Heart and Vascular Care visit: