Diagnosing early heart failure can be a challenge because the symptoms often can be similar to symptoms of other conditions. If you have one or more of the symptoms on the list below, make an appointment to see a doctor—and begin keeping a medical diary. The diary should describe your symptoms: how they make you feel, what activities bring them on, what makes them go away, and which ones are the most uncomfortable. This diary could be extremely helpful to you and to your physician.
- Shortness of breath while exercising, climbing stairs, or after eating, caused by fluid buildup in the lungs. Congested lungs not only make breathing difficult even at rest or lying flat at night, but can cause a dry, hacking cough or wheezing. Breathing difficulties can even be severe enough to awaken people from their sleep, causing them to sit up on the edge of the bed in order to catch their breath.
- Swelling (edema) of the ankles, legs, and abdomen or unexplained weight gain can reveal fluid and water retention.
- Frequent nightly urination may indicate that the kidneys are receiving less blood than they need.
- Fatigue and weakness during exercise or mild exertion because the major organs and muscles are starved for blood.
- Dizziness or confusion caused by inadequate blood flow to the brain.
- Nausea, bloating, and loss of appetite.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat because the heart is working too hard.
- Palpitations (a fluttering or flip-flop feeling in the chest).
Last reviewed on 3/8/2011
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