Do I Have Heart Failure?

Wednesday, Sep 02, 2015
Do I Have Heart Failure?

Heart failure is one of the most common reasons people age 65 and older go into the hospital. Learn about the symptoms and warning signs for heart failure.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood through to meet the body's needs for blood and oxygen. Basically, the heart isn't able to keep up with its workload because the heart does not pump blood efficiently.

How many people have heart failure?

About 5.7 million Americans have heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. Heart failure has no cure, but it can be treated. Treatments and lifestyle changes can improve the symptoms of heart failure.

What are the symptoms of heart failure?

People with heart failure typically experience an increase in symptoms as the heart becomes weaker and less able to pump blood through the body. Heart failure symptoms often begin slowly and may get worse over time. Symptoms can also appear suddenly if a person has a damaged heart caused by a heart attack or other condition.

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The most common signs and symptoms of heart failure, according to the American Heart Association, include:

  • Shortness of breath or breathlessness during activity, at rest or while sleeping
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Build up of excess fluid in body tissues (edema) that results in swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen
  • Fatigue and feeling tired all the time, which makes doing daily activities (like shopping or climbing stairs) difficult
  • Lack of appetite or nausea and a feeling of being full or sick to your stomach
  • Confusion or impaired thinking that causes feelings of disorientation
  • Increased heart rate, which may cause palpitations that feel like your heart is racing or throbbing.

How can I manage heart failure?

Heart failure symptoms can usually be controlled by medication, changes in lifestyle and treating the condition that caused the heart failure. People with heart failure can work with their doctor or healthcare provider to develop strategies to improve symptoms. Ongoing care and extensive education can often increase a person's quality of life.

How can I learn more about heart failure?

There are many resources available to learn about heart failure risk, prevention, causes and management. The American Heart Association website includes lots of information about heart failure, including information sheets, lifestyle sheets and trackers. The Doylestown Health website also includes information on heart failure.

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