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Signs and Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

Signs & Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure

The purpose of the heart is to pump blood to the body in order to nourish it. Heart failure doesn't mean that the heart has stopped working, but that it just isn't able to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body.

We spoke with Robb Kociol, MD, FHFSA, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Medical Director of Heart Failure at BID-Plymouth’s Cardiovascular Center to learn more about congestive heart failure.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Heart failure, sometimes known as congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart muscle doesn't pump blood as well as it should. Certain conditions, such as narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure, gradually leave your heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently.

Not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, but treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and help you live longer. Lifestyle changes, such as exercising, reducing sodium in your diet, managing stress and losing weight can improve your quality of life.

One way to prevent heart failure is to prevent and control conditions that cause heart failure, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity.1

Signs and Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure:

- Shortness of breath. Breathlessness during activity (most commonly), at rest, or while sleeping, which may come on suddenly and wake you up. You often have difficulty breathing while lying flat and may need to prop up the upper body and head on two pillows. You often complain of waking up tired or feeling anxious and restless.

Persistent coughing or wheezing. Coughing that produces white or pink blood-tinged mucus.

Buildup of excess fluid in the body tissues. Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen or weight gain. You may find that your shoes feel tight.

Tiredness. A tired feeling all the time and difficulty with everyday activities, such as shopping, climbing stairs, carrying groceries or walking.

Lack of appetite or nausea. A feeling of being full or sick to your stomach.

Confusion, impaired thinking. Memory loss and feelings of disorientation. A caregiver or relative may notice this first.

Increased heart rate. Heart palpitations, which feel like your heart is racing or throbbing.

Conditions that may lead to heart failure:

Coronary artery disease

Past Heart Attack

High blood pressure (hypertension of HBP)

Abnormal heart valves

Heart muscle disease

Heart defects present at birth

Severe lung disease



Sleep Apnea

When to See a Doctor

See your doctor if you think you might be experiencing signs or symptoms of heart failure. Seek emergency treatment if you experience any symptoms.



275 Sandwich Street
Plymouth, MA 02360
(508) 746-2000

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