When most people think of heart failure, they imagine an acute episode that often leads to either death or intense hospitalization. Yet heart failure can be a gradual and even difficult to detect process. Many individuals experiencing heart failure do not realize that they are in danger until it is too late.
Individuals who are at high risk for congestive heart failure, such as smokers, former smokers, those with high blood pressure, and those with coronary artery disease should always be on the lookout for the potential signs of heart failure. While none of these signs are terribly alarming on their own, a combination of two or more signs is reason enough to contact a physician.
1 Intense Feelings of Chest and Lung Pressure
This is often looked back upon by individuals with heart failure as an obvious symptom that they simply did not understand and chose to ignore. This is because to the medically uninitiated, it is rather difficult to describe in layman’s terms.
This symptom generally feels like an intense pressure on the chest, almost as if a weight is sitting on it. It can also feel as if you are “drowning” when taking a deep breath (often caused by fluid in the lungs).
Not everyone that experiences heart failure actually experiences chest pain, so a lack of chest pain does not necessarily mean that you are not experiencing heart failure.
2 Clothes Suddenly Feel Tight
When you experience heart failure, your body generally retains fluid in a variety of areas. Your skin may suddenly appear puffier and your clothes (even shoes) fit much tighter. A person experiencing heart failure will often suddenly appear inexplicably fatter or rounder and have trouble putting on clothes that just a week ago fit perfectly.
Often times, the feet, ankles, and face are the first to noticeably appear puffier or larger.
3 Change in Heart Rhythm
Most people tend to think that “heart failure” means your heart stops, yet this is actually quite far from the truth. In fact, a person experiencing heart failure may actually find themselves with an extremely fast or “pounding” heart beat. This can also be accompanied with a jittery feeling akin to a panic attack. Eventually, the heart begins to beat in an irregular pattern or with varying strength.
4 Loss of Appetite
An individual experiencing heart failure will often be completely devoid of an appetite even when they have not eaten for some time. This can be accompanied with nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal pain that causes vomiting. This is caused by fluid buildup around the intestines and liver that makes eating uncomfortable or painful.
This can often be a symptom of other illnesses; however, if it is coupled with fluid retention, it should be checked out by a licensed physician.
5 Shortness of Breath
One of the most common symptoms of heart failure is constantly waking up in the middle of the night feeling as if you cannot take a deep enough breath or simply catch your breath. In those experiencing heart failure, this is usually worse when laying down. In fact, one of the first diagnostic questions a doctor will ask an individual potentially experiencing heart failure is “how many pillows do you sleep on?”