Heart Failure Symptoms

Knowing How Heart Failure Can Make You Feel
Heart failure is a disease with many stages. The onset may be rapid, or it may progress more gradually. But once heart failure starts; it usually becomes a lifelong disease that patients have to learn to live with. Living with heart failure can be easier once you understand the symptoms and can communicate with your health care providers to make sure you are receiving the right care.

The following list of symptoms can be a place to start discussions with your caregiver(s):

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling (edema) in your lower extremities (feet, ankles, legs)
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Persistent cough or wheezing
  • Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)
  • Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating

“Heart failure is a progressive condition and symptoms progress along with that spectrum. Many patients may start out initially only experiencing shortness of breath with physical activity.”

Symptoms you may notice first

  • fatigue
  • swelling in your ankles, feet, and legs
  • weight gain
  • increased need to urinate, especially at night

Symptoms that indicate your condition has worsened

  • irregular heartbeat
  • a cough that develops from congested lungs
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath, which may indicate pulmonary edema

Symptoms that indicate a severe heart condition

  • chest pain that radiates through the upper body
  • rapid breathing
  • skin that appears blue, which is due to lack of oxygen in your lungs
  • fainting