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Heart failure (HF)
is a condition that does not allow your heart to fill or pump properly. Not enough oxygen in your blood gets to your organs and tissues. Fluid may not move through your body properly. Fluid builds up and causes swelling and difficulty breathing. This is known as congestive heart failure. HF may start in the left or right ventricle. HF is often caused by damage or injury to your heart. The damage may be caused by other heart problems, diabetes, or high blood pressure. The damage may have also been caused by an infection. HF is a long-term condition that tends to get worse over time. It is important to manage your health to improve your quality of life.
Common signs and symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing with activity that worsens to difficulty breathing at rest
- Shortness of breath while lying flat
- Severe shortness of breath and coughing at night that usually wakes you
- Chest pain at night
- Periods of no breathing, then breathing fast
- Fatigue or lack of energy (often worsened by physical activity)
- Swelling in your ankles, legs, or abdomen
- Fast heartbeat, purple color around your mouth and nailbeds
- Fingers and toes cool to the touch
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
- and any of the following:
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
Call your doctor if:
- Your heartbeat is fast, slow, or uneven all the time.
- You have symptoms of worsening HF:
- Shortness of breath at rest, at night, or that is getting worse in any way
- Weight gain of 3 or more pounds (1.4 kg) in a day, or more than your healthcare provider says is okay
- More swelling in your legs or ankles
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- More coughing
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling tired all the time
- You feel hopeless or depressed, or you have lost interest in things you used to enjoy.
- You often feel worried or afraid.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Treatment for HF
may include any of the following:
- Medicines may be needed to help regulate your heart rhythm. You may also need medicines to lower your blood pressure, and to decrease extra fluids.
- Oxygen may help you breathe easier if your oxygen level is lower than normal. A CPAP machine may be used to keep your airway open while you sleep.
- Cardiac rehab is a program run by specialists who will help you safely strengthen your heart. In the program you will learn about exercise, relaxation, stress management, and heart-healthy nutrition. Cardiac rehab may be recommended if your HF is not severe.
- Surgery can be done to implant a pacemaker or another device in your chest to regulate your heart rhythm. Other types of surgery can open blocked heart vessels, replace a damaged heart valve, or remove scar tissue.
Manage or prevent HF:
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung and heart damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. Alcohol and drugs can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
- Eat heart-healthy foods and limit sodium (salt). Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat fewer canned and processed foods. Replace butter and margarine with heart-healthy oils such as olive oil and canola oil. Other heart-healthy foods include walnuts, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are also heart healthy. Ask how much salt you can eat each day.
- Manage any chronic health conditions you have. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and COPD. You will have fewer symptoms if you manage these health conditions. Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations and follow up with him or her regularly.
- Drink liquids as directed. You may need to limit the amount of liquids you drink if you have fluid buildup. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. These conditions can make your symptoms worse. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
- Stay active. Activity will help keep your symptoms from getting worse. Walking is a type of physical activity that helps maintain your strength and improve your mood. Physical activity also helps you manage your weight. Work with your healthcare provider to create an exercise plan that is right for you.
- Weigh yourself every morning. Use the same scale, in the same spot. Do this after you use the bathroom, but before you eat or drink. Wear the same type of clothing each time. Write down your weight and call your healthcare provider if you have a sudden weight gain. Swelling and weight gain are signs of fluid buildup.
- Get vaccines as directed. Get a flu shot every year. You may also need the pneumonia vaccine. The flu and pneumonia can be severe for a person who has HF. Vaccines protect you from these infections.
Join a support group:
HF can be difficult to manage. It may be helpful to talk with others who have HF. You may learn how to better manage your condition or get emotional support. For more information:
- American Heart Association
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas , TX 75231-4596
Phone: 1- 800 - 242-8721
Web Address: http://www.heart.org
Follow up with your doctor or cardiologist within 7days or as directed:
You may need to return for other tests. You may need home health care. A healthcare provider will monitor your vital signs, weight, and make sure your medicines are working. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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