How to Tell if Your Heart Is Failing
From your Guide
Heart failure is a condition where the heart can no longer
adequately pump blood to meet the body's needs. Although it is always serious,
heart failure is not instantly fatal.
- An early sign of heart failure is shortness of breath (dysnea). It is slowly
progressive and ultimately interferes with your level of activity and lifestyle.
- In advanced cases, you may not be able to lie down flat in bed, a condition
- Sometimes, you may wake up in the middle of the night feeling suddenly
breathless and choked. This is called paroxysmal nocturnal dysnea (PND).
- You may feel easily fatigued, as a direct consequence of the reduced capacity
of your heart to pump blood effectively.
- You may develop water-logging in your feet and ankles - a condition called
edema - or rarely even in the abdominal cavity. This is another indication
of heart failure.
- You may notice prominence of veins in the neck, face and arms. This is a
result of stagnation of blood inside these veins.
- You may contract frequent chest infections, especially if you are an older
patient with heart failure.
- In very tiny newborns, heart failure is recognized by the child's inability
to feed normally, excessive sweatiness, frequent chest infections, constant
crying, irritability, and failure to gain weight.
- Your urine output might become lower, a consequence of less blood flow to
- In terminal stages, heart failure patients have cold, clammy skin, sweatiness,
a rapid heart rate and raspy harsh breathing.
- Further investigations including an x-ray of the chest, EKG and echocardiography
can help you identify the cause for heart failure.
- Heart failure can often be recognized clinically.
- Other disease conditions - like lung fibrosis, kidney failure and blood
disorders - can mimic some aspects of heart failure and be mistaken for it.
- Early identification and treatment can help minimize the damage.
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