Your heart failure symptoms are due to either fluid buildup or lack of oxygen in your tissues. You may notice some or all of these heart failure symptoms.

  • Shortness of breath. You may experience shortness of breath at any time. This is due to the fluid buildup in your lungs, which makes breathing harder. This breathing difficulty tends to occur first during physical activity - and may also occur at night when you’re trying to lie flat.
  • Cough. Many people with heart failure complain of a frequent cough. Sometimes this cough is dry and hacking, and other times it produces phlegm. For some, this cough occurs primarily at night. For others, it can last all day. Like shortness of breath, this cough is likely a side effect of fluid buildup in your lungs, especially if phlegm is pink-tinged.
  • Excessive fatigue. When your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs, you’re bound to feel more tired than usual. You may also feel weak. Your muscles and organs simply aren’t getting the blood they need, and even a good night’s sleep won’t help.
  • Weight gain. Weight gain may be one of the earliest signs of fluid buildup in your body. Extra fluid in your body translates into extra weight showing up on your scale - at a rate of about 2 pounds for each quart of additional body fluid. For this reason, keeping track of your weight is a great measure of your heart failure management.
  • Swollen ankles, feet, belly, lower back, and fingers. Fluid buildup will show up as swelling in different parts of your body. The ankles, feet, belly, lower back, and fingers are places where extra fluid is most likely to collect as it seeps out of blood vessels into your tissues. Swelling in your belly can cause you to feel bloated or nauseated, and can decrease your appetite. Swelling is usually worse at the end of the day.
  • Poor concentration and memory lapses. Some people with heart failure complain of these symptoms. They may be explained by lack of oxygen to the brain.

Right-sided Heart Failure

When the right side of the heart isn’t pumping effectively, the blood returning to the heart from the body backs up in the veins. When blood backs up in the veins, excess fluid in the blood leaks out into the surrounding tissues. This can cause:

  • Swelling in the liver
  • Bloating in the stomach
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles

Left-sided Heart Failure

When the left side of the heart isn’t pumping effectively, blood backs up, causing fluid accumulation in the lungs. This can cause:

  • Swelling in the liver
  • Bloating in the stomach
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Fatigue and weakness

It is possible to just have right-sided heart failure, left-sided heart failure, or both.

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