Related Media: What is Heart Failure?
Heart failure is a progressive condition, and symptoms may not appear for some time. At first, the body and heart are able to make up for decreased heart functions and there may not be any symptoms. Over time, the heart failure worsens. The decreasing heart function can make it difficult to move fluid and oxygen throughout the body which can cause: Shortness of breath, especially with activity, or when lying downEdema in the legs, ankles, and feetFatigue and weaknessPersistent cough or a wheezing cough that may be accompanied by white or blood-tinged phlegmRapid weight gain as a result of fluid accumulationIrregular or rapid heartbeatChange in urine production, which may include an increase, decrease, or need to urinate at nightNauseaLoss of appetiteDecreased alertness
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Over time, heart failure can lead to other complications such as: Cardiomyopathy
—Structural changes in the heart muscle caused by excess load on the heart.
Irregular heartbeats make it harder to keep chronic heart failure stabilized. They
sudden cardiac arrest
—Excess fluid build-up affects the liver's ability to function normally. It may also cause the liver to enlarge.
—Reduced blood flow to the kidneys results in fluid retention, leading to edema. It also increases blood pressure, forcing the heart to work harder.
—Reduced blood flow to the brain and increased blood pressure
can cause a stroke.
Signs and symptoms of heart failure. Heart failure website. Available at: http://www.heartfailure.org/heart-failure/signs-symptoms. Accessed October 7, 2013.
Symptoms & diagnosis of heart failure.
American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/SymptomsDiagnosisofHeartFailure/Symptoms-Diagnosis-of-Heart-Failure_UCM_002047_Article.jsp. Updated September 20, 2012. Accessed October 7, 2013.
Vasan RS, Benjamin EJ, et al. Prevalence, clinical features and prognosis of diastolic heart failure; an epidemiologic perspective.
J Am Coll Cardiol.
What are the signs and symptoms of heart failure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hf/signs.html. Updated January 9, 2013. Accessed October 7, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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