Crucial Signs: Understanding Heart Failure Symptoms

Artemis Hospital

February 27, 2024 | 1
9 Min Read | 125

Heart Failure is a complex disease which is characterized by structural and/or functional abnormalities of heart muscles. It manifests with symptoms like breathlessness, ankle swelling, fatigue, wheezing, and cough. It is accompanied by certain signs such as elevated jugular venous pressure and pulmonary crackles (crackling sound in lungs).

Heart Failure is a prevalent condition that impacts approximately 1% to 2% of the global population. It has been a significant contributor to disabilities and fatalities in both developed and developing nations so far. Despite the advancement in medical therapeutics, management of heart failure has been a big challenge to doctors. This is demonstrated by the comparatively higher hospital readmission rate as well as the rise in related disabilities and fatalities.

Impaired heart muscle activity, heart valve dysfunction, and damaged large blood vessels, either separately or in combination, are the most common causes of this heart condition. Some of the major abnormalities of mechanisms leading to heart failure are impaired blood flow in heart chambers, poor blood supply to heart muscles, increased cell deaths in heart tissues, and genetic mutations.

Heart failure is currently treated primarily with medications that reduce symptoms, slow the disease's progression, and prolong life modestly. The concept of rejuvenating the failing heart has started to seem possible as the medical science is progressing by leaps and bounds. In the early stages of heart failure, a standardized medical therapy has proven effective. Due to associated comorbid conditions, advanced stages necessitate frequent hospitalization. To lower readmissions, a strict multidisciplinary approach tailored to the patients needs must be implemented.

In addition to having the knowledge of heart failure symptoms one should also be aware of its established and novel management modalities. Lets know more about this disorder and its symptoms in the following article.

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is a chronic illness where the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently enough to meet the demands of the body. In fact, your heart is still functional but sub optimally. However, because it is unable to pump normal volume of blood, blood accumulates in other areas of your body. It gathers most often in your legs, feet, and lungs. Treatments such as medications assist in controlling symptoms such as edema (swelling due to fluid retention). For many people, congestive heart failure is potentially fatal.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Heart Failure?

Following are the symptoms associated with heart failure:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Waking up at night due to shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Fluid retention ankles, abdomen, and legs
  • Dry & hacking cough
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Bloated or hard stomach
  • Increased urge to urinate at night
  • Stomach upset causing nausea
  • Loss of appetite;

Causes of Heart Failure

Following are the causes of heart failure:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack (sudden loss of heart functions)
  • Genetic or viral cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disorder)
  • Congenital heart disease (birth defects in heart)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Kidney diseases
  • Obesity
  • Smoking/vaping
  • Drug abuse
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Chemotherapy

Risk Factors of Heart Failure

Following are the risk factors of heart failure:

  • Age above 65
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Excessive exposure to tobacco, cocaine or alcohol
  • Food containing high salt and fat content
  • Suffering from conditions like high blood pressure
  • Suffering from disease like coronary artery disease
  • History of heart attack
  • Family history of heart failure

When to Consult Your Doctor?

If you suspect you may be experiencing heart failure symptoms, make an appointment with a doctor immediately. Following are the warning signs:

  • Pain in the chest.
  • Fainting or being extremely weak.
  • Quick or erratic heartbeat accompanied by breathing difficulties palpitations, or feeling lightheaded.
  • Abrupt, severe breathing problems accompanied by foamy, white or pink mucus cough.

Heart Failure Treatment Options

Medical interventions include:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors like enalapril, lisinopril, and captopril
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) like losartan, valsartan, and candesartan
  • Angiotensin receptor plus neprilysin inhibitors (ARNIs) like sacubitril-valsartan
  • Beta blockers like carvedilol, metoprolol, and bisoprolol
  • Diuretics (often called water pills) like furosemide
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics such as spironolactone and eplerenone
  • Sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors such as canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin
  • Digoxin (also called digitalis)
  • Hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate
  • Vericiguat
  • Positive inotropes
  • Nitrates for chest pain
  • Statins to lower cholesterol
  • Blood thinners to prevent formation of blood clots

Surgical Interventions

  • Coronary bypass surgery
  • Heart valve repair or replacement
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)
  • Ventricular assist device (VAD)
  • Heart transplant

How to Prevent Heart Failure?

To safeguard your heart and prevent heart failure, heed these advices:

  • Manage raised blood pressure: Vascular narrowing occurs in heart failure. In order to pump blood through those constricted arteries, your heart has to work harder. Maintaining controlled blood pressure helps your heart pump more efficiently by reducing unnecessary strain on it.
  • Keep an eye on your symptoms: Check for swelling on your body and weigh yourself every day. These indicate that you are accommodating excess fluid in the body. If you gain three pounds in a day or five pounds in a week, or if you see any swelling, give your doctor a call.
  • Ensure that your fluid levels are balanced: You might be asked to write down how much liquid you consume and how frequently you use the loo by your doctor. Your heart has to work harder to pump the extra fluid through your body when there is more fluid in your blood vessels. To lessen the strain on your heart and avoid the symptoms of heart failure, you might need to cut back on the amount of fluid you consume.
  • Limit sodium or salt intake: Some foods naturally contain sodium, while other foods require it to add flavor or extend their shelf life. You should breathe easier, have less swelling, and retain less fluid if you eat a low-sodium diet.
  • Observe any new or deteriorating symptoms: If any of your existing symptoms worsen or if you develop new ones, give your doctor a call.
  • Take you medicine regularly: Medication helps your heart pump blood more efficiently, reduces cardiac strain, delays heart failure, and keeps your body from retaining fluid. Medication for heart failure causes your blood vessels to relax and widen, lowering blood pressure.
  • Make routine appointments with your doctor: Your doctors will check on you at follow-up appointments to make sure your heart failure doesn't worsen and that you remain healthy. Your weight and medication list will be reviewed.


You can take action to strengthen your heart if you suffer from heart failure. Maintain a low-sodium diet, track your symptoms, be active, notice any sudden changes in your weight, take your medications as prescribed, and follow your subsequent doctor visit plan. Speak with the doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding your medication, lifestyle modifications, or any other aspect of your treatment plan. Their purpose is to assist you in managing your heart failure.

Get in touch with the experts to get right advice on heart failure symptoms and stay safe. Click here now.


Q1: How much time can someone with heart failure live?

A: More than half of all heart failure patients are expected to live for five years following their diagnosis, according to research. However, 35 % of patients will endure for a decade or more.

Q2: What does end stage heart failure mean?

A: A patient is at a higher risk of passing away within the next six to twelve months if they have end-stage heart failure.

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