Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure You Should Know

As the heart weakens, it sends you signals that all is not right. Knowing how to catch these symptoms of congestive heart failure promptly can literally save your life.

You’re out of breath

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Congestive heart failure is a condition in which the heart pumps less effectively, meaning blood flowing to the heart backs up throughout the body, and blood flowing from the heart is inadequate to meet the body’s needs. One of the first symptoms of congestive heart failure is shortness of breath during normal daily chores or errands. “When the heart is impaired, blood backs up into the lungs making it hard to breathe,” says Gregg Fonarow, MD, spokesperson for the American Heart Association, heart failure cardiologist, and co-chair of the UCLA division of cardiology. “Patients present differently, but for some, the most disturbing symptom is this shortness of breath,” he adds. “It can get so bad people have trouble breathing even during rest.”

Your footwear doesn’t fit

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The buildup of excess fluid in the body’s tissues, called edema, causes swelling most commonly in the feet and legs. “People may notice their shoes feel tight or their socks make lines on their ankles,” says Dr. Fonarow. In addition, with heart failure, the kidneys are less able to dispose of water and sodium, which also contributes to the retention of fluid in the tissues, says the American Heart Association (AHA). Check out these 12 heart health breakthroughs that could save your life.

You’re coughing and wheezing

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The backup of fluids could also trigger coughing, says Dr. Fonarow. “It’s because of this symptom that heart failure can sometimes be misdiagnosed as asthma or bronchitis,” he explains. A cough that worsens at night and when lying down could be a sign of acute pulmonary edema, a condition in which too much fluid accumulates in your lungs requiring emergency attention, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

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