Heart Failure Causes and Symptoms

Heart failure occurs when your heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. Also, it can occur when you have a very stiff heart that can lead to fluids building up in your lungs and legs. Although your heart still beats, a weakened or very stiff heart doesn’t pump enough blood, which is rich with oxygen and nutrients needed by your entire body. As a result, walking, carrying groceries or even climbing stairs can be difficult or cause shortness of breath.

Common Causes of Heart Failure

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Past heart attack (myocardial infarction)
  • Heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart valve disease
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Heart defects from birth
  • Diabetes
  • Severe anemia
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Severe lung disease

Symptoms of Heart Failure

If you experience one or more of the following symptoms, immediately contact your primary care physician or go to the nearest emergency department.

  • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath or dyspnea), especially when lying down flat in bed; you may need to prop up your upper body and head on two or more pillows
  • Difficulty with everyday activities such as shopping, climbing stairs or walking due to shortness of breath with activity (exertion)
  • Waking up breathless at night; waking up tired, feeling anxious or restless
  • Frequent, dry or hacking cough, especially when lying down; cough may produce white or blood-tinged mucus
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Swollen (edema) feet, ankles, legs or abdomen or weight gain; shoes may feel tight
  • Nausea with abdominal swelling, pain and tenderness; feeling of being full or lack of appetite
  • Confusion, impaired thinking, memory loss and feelings of disorientation
  • Increased heart rate, heart palpitations or feeling that the heart is racing/throbbing

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