Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped working entirely, but rather that it is struggling to keep up with the demands of your body for oxygen and nutrient-rich blood. While patients who suddenly develop heart failure (acute heart failure) will have pronounced symptoms, others may find that their symptoms develop gradually over time. The symptoms of heart failure are also symptoms of many other conditions, and many older patients may at first assume they are signs of aging.
If you experience chest pain or fainting—or have shortness of breath with chest pain, fainting or coughing with pink blood-tinged mucus—immediately seek emergency medical treatment.
Symptoms of heart failure in adults include the following:
- Shortness of breath (including shortness of breath while lying down flat)
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Swelling (edema) in legs, ankles and feet
- Swelling in abdomen
- Rapid weight gain
- Arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems)
- Coughing or wheezing, sometimes accompanied by pink blood-tinged mucus
- Need to urinate at night
- Confusion or difficulty thinking
- High blood pressure or low blood pressure
- Loss of appetite and/or nausea
Getting Help for Heart Failure
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with heart failure, treatment options are available. Most often, there is no cure for the condition, but it can often be managed and allow for a good quality of life through lifestyle changes and medications.
When you talk with your heart failure team, Questions to Ask Your Care Providers About Heart Failure can help guide your conversation. Additionally, Resources Related to Heart Failure can help you find a support network and more information.
If you are having heart failure symptoms, the next stage will be diagnosis. A heart failure diagnosis will be made (or ruled out) based on your personal and family medical history, a physical exam and tests. To learn more, visit Diagnosing Heart Failure.