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Recognizing the Signs of Congestive Heart Failure

The earliest signs of congestive heart failure are often subtle and easy to dismiss as simply part of getting older. While it’s true that the body slows with age and some degree of vitality loss comes with it, symptoms such as fatigue and breathlessness may also be signs that your heart isn’t functioning efficiently.  

The team at CA Heart and Vein Specialists wants you to know the signs of heart failure so you can take action. Early intervention for heart failure improves outcomes — reducing symptoms, improving functioning, and lessening your chances of dying unexpectedly. That’s why it’s crucial to identify symptoms that may signal heart trouble. 

Understanding heart failure 

A diagnosis of heart failure can seem scary. It’s important to know that the term “heart failure” doesn’t mean that your heart has failed. It means that a condition, most often coronary artery disease, has damaged your heart muscle or reduced its ability to pump blood as well as it should. This can also happen with longstanding hypertension or after a heart attack.

Regardless of the cause, the heart cannot meet the body’s demand for oxygen-rich blood. As a result of reduced oxygen, you may experience symptoms.

The FACES of heart failure

The Heart Failure Society of America has developed a helpful acronym to help people recognize the signs and symptoms of heart failure: FACES. 

F is for fatigue

If you think about the fact that all of your muscles and cells require oxygenated blood to function optimally, it should come as no surprise that fatigue is a symptom of heart failure. So how do you know if your fatigue isn’t a result of aging, stress, or simply overdoing it?

The fatigue that patients with heart failure experience doesn’t resolve with sleep or rest. In fact, you may wake feeling tired and as if you didn’t get restful or restorative sleep. You may feel tired upon exertion, whether it’s climbing stairs or playing with your grandchildren.

A is for activity limitation

It’s awfully hard to lead an active lifestyle when your muscles and brain aren’t getting enough oxygenated blood. You may become breathless and tired from normal activities like walking moderate distances. This can lead you to limit your activities. 

C is for congestion

Heart failure can cause fluid to build up in your arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs. This is where the term “congestive heart failure” originates. Not everyone with heart failure experiences congestion; it may occur in later stages of heart failure. Coughing and sneezing are common when the lungs are congested. 

E is for edema

When your heart is pumping efficiently, it keeps blood flowing up from your lower extremities. With heart failure, fluid often collects in your ankles, legs, thighs, and abdomen. If you notice swelling in these areas, it may be a sign of heart failure.

S is for shortness of breath

Breathlessness is a common sign of heart failure. A reduced blood flow capacity can cause shortness of breath. Additionally, fluid in the lungs can make it difficult for your body to exchange carbon dioxide for fresh oxygen. Patients with heart failure may have breathlessness even while lying down.

Diagnosing and treating heart failure  

Only a doctor can make a diagnosis. There are many other conditions that can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and edema. For this reason, it’s crucial to visit a heart specialist for a comprehensive heart health evaluation.

At CA Heart and Vein Specialists, cardiovascular physician Dr. Majed Chane can perform a thorough check to see how well your heart and circulatory system works. He’s up-to-date on recent cardiovascular solutions and can establish a treatment plan that keeps your heart as healthy as possible so you maintain a good quality of life.

If you have symptoms that may signal heart trouble, your family has a history of heart problems, or you suspect your heart isn’t working as well as it should, don’t wait to schedule a visit. Call our office in Huntington Beach, California, at 657-206-8491 or book your request online.

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