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Don't Miss a Beat: Know the Warning Signs of Heart Failure

Friday, May 21, 2021 7:27 AM

Heart failure (also known as congestive heart failure or CHF) occurs when the heart is unable to effectively pump or fill with blood. Heart failure symptoms can vary widely including mild disease with shortness of breath and leg swelling, or severe disease with failure of other organs.  Heart failure is one of the leading causes of hospitalizations nationwide – leading to poorer quality of life and earlier death if not managed quickly and carefully.  

heart rhythm

Coronary artery disease and hypertension are the most common contributors to the development of congestive heart failure. However, heart valve diseasearrhythmias, viruses, lung disease and medication side effects may also play a role. Since the reasons for heart failure are so varied, patients require precise diagnosis and careful treatment for the best outcomes.

Heart Failure Symptoms

Congestive heart failure doesn't happen overnight. Usually, patients experience a gradual worsening of symptoms over days or months. 

Common heart failure symptoms include:

• Shortness of breath with activity

• Cough at night or shortness of breath when laying down to go to sleep

• Swelling of the ankles, feet, and belly and/or weight gain

• Irregular or fast heartbeat

• Fatigue, weakness, or confusion

• Loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting

Avoid Your Triggers

Talk with your doctor about the following possible triggers. If these are triggers for you, use the suggestions to help you avoid them.

  • Is eating too much salt a trigger for you? Too much sodium is a common trigger for sudden heart failure episode. Pay attention to how much salt you are eating. Your doctor might recommend that you not eat or drink more than 2 g (2000 mg) of sodium in your diet each day (this is equal to one teaspoon). Ready-to-eat, canned foods and processed meats tend to have more salt. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. 
  • Is not taking medicines properly a trigger for you? It is important to take all your medicines as directed and to refill them on time.

  • Are you taking other over-the-counter medications or supplements? Many cold medicines, herbal supplements, and pain medications can interact with your heart medications. Let your doctor know about anything you take – even if it does not require a prescription.

For more information, visit our Healthwise guide on heart failure content