February is National Heart Month, and the week of Valentine’s Day is National Heart Failure Awareness Week, so it’s a better time than ever to become familiar with the warning signs of heart failure.
Nearly 6 million American adults have heart failure, also called congestive heart failure. The risk increases as you age, and it’s easy to mistake heart failure symptoms for the normal signs associated with aging. Learn what to watch out for and why you shouldn’t ignore certain warning signs.
What is heart failure?
Heart failure doesn’t mean that your heart will stop beating. It means that your heart doesn’t do its job as well as it should. Each day, a normal heart pumps roughly 2,000 gallons of blood. Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to fill with enough blood or can’t move enough blood throughout the body with enough force.
Heart failure signs and symptoms
The most common symptoms of heart failure may go unnoticed, as you may think you’re experiencing normal changes that come along with aging. When your heart can’t circulate enough blood throughout your body, fluid builds up. It’s this excess fluid and reduced blood flow that cause some of the classic symptoms of congestive heart failure, such as:
Shortness of breath: Heart failure commonly causes shortness of breath, especially during activities. You may also experience breathlessness when lying flat.
Swelling of the ankles and feet: Reduced blood flow from the heart causes fluid to back up. Edema, or fluid retention, is a common result. People with heart failure tend to have swelling in their ankles and feet as well as their legs and abdomen.
Fatigue: Feeling tired is an extremely common heart failure symptom. Because the heart can’t pump enough blood, the blood supply is diverted to the most vital organs, leaving your muscles without enough blood. People with heart failure often feel tired from everyday activities like climbing stairs.
You may experience other symptoms, such as persistent coughing, frequent urination, and weight gain, due to excess fluid.
Risk factors for heart failure
If you’re diagnosed with heart failure, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone, and while it may limit some of your activities, it is manageable. Certain factors put you at a higher risk for developing heart disease.
As you grow older, your heart can weaken, increasing the chances of heart failure. Heart failure is more common in people aged 65 and older. Many older adults have developed health conditions over many years that contribute to the onset of congestive heart failure.
Carrying excess weight has a detrimental effect on many body systems. It places an extra strain on your heart, among other things. Being overweight can weaken the heart over time and cause changes that increase the chances of developing heart failure.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure
An estimated 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, and nearly half of them are unaware that they have it. In addition, many who know they have it don’t seek appropriate treatment. Over time, uncontrolled hypertension damages blood vessels and places a significant strain on the heart. At first, the heart may adapt to keep up with demand, such as increasing in size. After a while, the heart becomes unable to keep up, and heart failure develops.
While doctors aren’t sure exactly why, African-Americans are at a higher risk of developing heart failure than people of other races. They also tend to develop it at a younger age and experience more complications as a result of heart failure.
Having a previous heart attack
Heart attacks damage your heart muscle. This damage can weaken your heart and increase the chances of developing heart failure.
At California Heart and Vein Specialists, Dr. Majed Chane and his team can help you manage heart failure. It’s wise to schedule a screening if you notice symptoms. For more information, call our office in Huntington Beach, California, or you can request an appointment online.