Fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling in the legs are common symptoms of congestive heart failure. Because tissues do not receive enough nourishment if the heart is not pumping adequately, you may tire easily. Shortness of breath may worsen with activity, at night, or when lying down. You may even be awakened from sleep with a feeling of suffocation.
If fluid pools in the lungs, you may experience a persistent cough. You also may cough up a pink, frothy substance, mucus, or blood. Fluid in the lungs results from the heart’s inability to pump out all the blood it receives. Fluid retention can cause sudden weight gain, and may collect in the lungs over a period of time. Blocked arteries, an irregularly beating heart, stress, or consuming a large amount of salt may increase the risk of your lungs filling with fluid.
Fluid may also back up into the legs, arms, or abdomen, causing swelling and firmness. Other symptoms include irregular heartbeats or palpitations, feeling your heart pounding in your chest, loss of appetite or nausea, and confusion. The heart beats faster to try to make up for its limited pumping ability. The more rapid heartbeat may be irregular, or cause a feeling in the chest that the heart is racing. When the stomach and digestive system receive less blood, due to the heart’s failure to pump adequately, you may feel nauseous or full. Digestive symptoms also may occur due to swelling of the liver. Changes in blood chemistry levels can lead to confusion, memory loss, and impaired thinking.
Factors that increase a person’s risk of heart attack, such as high cholesterol levels, obesity, and high blood pressure, also increase risk of congestive heart failure Figure 04. The same factors that contribute to other heart disease—hardening of the arteries, high cholesterol levels, obesity, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm, thyroid problems, diabetes mellitus, and a family history of heart disease or sudden death, increase the risk of congestive heart failure.
Figure 04. BMI calculator
Older people and African-Americans are at increased risk for the heart failure. People older than 65 are more likely than younger people to suffer from congestive heart failure. The condition is more prevalent among African Americans than whites.
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