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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Listen to You Heart - Top 10 Signs of Heart Failure

Rebecca S. Boxer, M.D., senior medical editor,
and Melanie Haiken, senior editor
"Because the symptoms of heart failure (sometimes called congestive heart failure) can be difficult to identify and describe, it is often diagnosed quite late. If you or the person you're caring for has risk factors for heart disease, such as being a smoker or a former smoker and having high blood pressure or coronary artery disease (CAD), it's a good idea to be on the lookout for heart failure. Taken by themselves, any one of the symptoms listed here probably isn't cause for alarm, but two or more are good cause to call your doctor for an evaluation."

1. Shortness of Breath - One of the characteristic symptoms of heart failure is waking during the night or in the morning feeling as if you can't breathe deeply or can't catch your breath.
What it feels like:
A feeling of compression in the chest and lungs, making it difficult to take a deep breath, particularly during exertion or when lying down.
Why it happens: Because the heart's ability to pump is weakened, blood backs up in the blood vessels that return blood from the lungs to the heart, causing fluid to leak into the lungs. When the head is elevated, gravity helps ease blood flow to and from the lungs, reducing the feeling of breathlessness.

A feeling of chest pressure or "drowning"
What it feels like: It may feel like a pressure or heaviness in the chest, or a feeling akin to drowning or being compressed by a heavy weight. Some feel chest pain but not everyone does, so a lack of pain doesn't rule out heart failure.
Why it happens: Fluid overload throughout the body affects both the chest cavity and the lungs. Fluid in the lungs can feel like drowning when drawing a breath, and congestion in the chest and abdominal tissues can make the lungs feel pressure from outside, as they might deep under water.

3. Clothes and shoes that feel tight
- Fluid retention with swelling is one of the primary symptoms of heart failure.
What it feels or looks like: There will be tightness in clothes and shoes, or the skin will look puffy. A relatively sudden increase in girth is a telltale sign of heart failure.
Why it happens: Reduced blood flow out of the heart causes blood returning to the heart to back up in the veins. The fluid then builds up within tissues, particularly in the abdomen, legs, and feet, a condition known as congestion (not to be confused with nasal congestion). Also, the weakened heart can't pump enough blood to the kidneys, which become less efficient at flushing sodium and fluids from the body.

4. Heart-rhythm problems:
It's common for people with heart failure to experience palpitations or changes in heart rhythm.
What it feels like: Someone with heart failure may complain that his heart is racing or that it feels like it's beating too hard. Often, a fast or irregular heartbeat is accompanied by a jittery feeling, similar to that experienced during a panic attack.These problems can be dangerous if left untreated, so it's important to tell the doctor of any heart-rhythm problems.
Why it happens: The heart tries to make up for weakness in pumping by beating faster and harder. As it tires, the heart can't keep up a regular rhythm and skips beats, or beats with varying strength.

5. Loss of appetite:
This lack of appetite may start gradually with your loved one eating smaller portions and feeling full faster, or it may come on suddenly, making you wonder if she has an upset stomach. You may also notice her eating more slowly when she does eat.
What it feels like: A sensation of being full, even when it's been a long time since a meal. You might also notice nausea, constipation, a general feeling of being sick to the stomach, or abdominal pain and tenderness. In addition, the heavy feeling in the chest and abdomen can make it unpleasant to eat. Fatigue can cause someone with heart failure to eat less simply because of fatigue; even chewing can be exhausting.
Why it happens: Fluid buildup around the liver and intestines interferes with digestion. Decreased blood flow to the stomach and intestines slows the entire digestive process, causing problems like constipation and nausea. Also, heart failure causes people to feel full quickly because of fluid retention and swelling.

6. Dizziness and light-headedness
-Complaints of feeling faint, light-headed, and dizzy are among the most common problems for people with heart failure.
What it feels like: A sensation of being dizzy, faint, and light-headed, or as if "the world's spinning." Nausea or the feeling of carsickness is common, too. If these feelings are associated with palpitations or arrhythmias, it's important to call the doctor right away.
Why it happens: There are several ways heart failure causes dizziness: Inadequate oxygen in the circulatory system causes cells to become oxygen-deprived. Heart-rhythm abnormalities and narrowing in one or more valves restricts blood flow through the heart. Changing levels of chemicals in the blood, such as sodium, can cause confusion and disorientation. Standing up too quickly can cause a rapid drop in blood pressure called postural hypotension.

7. Anxiety
- an often missed but most telling clue.
What it feels like: Fast, shallow breathing, racing thoughts, sweaty palms, and a rapid heart rate are all signs of a heightened anxiety response. People with heart failure often mistake these feelings for anxiety and stress.
Why it happens: Congestion around the chest and lungs causes strange sensations throughout the body that are confusing and frightening. Lack of oxygen in the bloodstream causes weakness and dizziness and may also produce disorientation and memory loss, which exacerbate anxiety. And a racing heart can feel like an anxiety attack.

8. Coughing
- one of the primary symptoms of heart failure.
What it feels like: A tickle or irritation in the lungs, or fluid in the lungs that needs to come up. The cough associated with heart failure is less likely to be felt in the throat. You may notice the cough worsening when your loved one is lying down or when he first gets up.
Why it happens: Fluid builds up in the lungs because the heart's pumping capacity is weakened. The fluid can cause irritation and infection and can lead to pneumonia. If your loved one complains of not being able to draw a breath because of fluid, or you hear the telltale chest rattle of pneumonia, call the doctor right away.

9. Tiring easily or feeling exhausted all the time
- there are some specific clues that heart failure's the cause.
What it feels like: Being unable to catch one's breath during and after exertion. Someone with heart failure may complain of being too tired to walk somewhere or to get up and fix a meal. You might notice a cycle of sleep problems and fatigue.
Why it happens: When a weakened heart can't keep up an adequate blood supply, the body diverts blood to more vital organs such as the heart, brain, and kidneys. This deprives working muscles of oxygen, so they tire more quickly. Lack of oxygen can also cause faintness and an overall feeling of fatigue. In addition, if the kidneys aren't removing waste products as efficiently, this contributes to a feeling of exhaustion.

10. Any unexplained changes in behavio
r - notice the ways in which your loved one's symptoms affect her participation in day-to-day activities.
What it feels or looks like: Changing habits or routines.You might also notice your loved one starting to reduce her activity level in subtle ways, such as saying she's too tired to attend an event or activity that previously was important to her. Another red flag is if she starts to sleep in her chair rather than her bed.
Why it happens: Because fluid buildup and lack of oxygen affect all bodily systems, a person with heart failure may unconsciously make changes to compensate for the discomfort without realizing she's sick.

To read this article in full go to:

For: 10 Heart Attack Symptoms You’re Most Likely to Ignore - Go to:



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