Health Topics

Symptoms of Heart Failure

The Symptoms of Heart Failure

The symptoms of heart failure may be mild to severe. The symptoms are related to the changes that occur in your heart and body (see below) and are the same in women as men. However, women seem to have more shortness of breath and more difficulty exercising than men. They also have swelling around their ankles more frequently than men.

You may have one or all of these symptoms below. Sometimes, people with weakened or abnormal heart muscles do not have any symptoms.

  • Congested lungs (caused by fluid backing up in the lungs) — causes shortness of breath with exercise (or activity) or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying flat in bed. Congested lungs also can cause a dry cough or wheezing.
  • Less blood to your kidneys causes fluid and water retention, resulting in swollen ankles and legs (edema), swollen abdomen (ascites) and weight gain.
  • Less blood to your major organs and muscles may cause fatigue and weakness during any activity.
  • A feeling of fullness (bloating) in your stomach. A loss of appetite or nausea may also occur.
  • Heart beating faster (palpitations).
  • A feeling of dizziness or actually fainting (syncope).
  • Chest discomfort that may be felt as pain, numbness, tightness or pressure.

- Eileen Hsich, MD, specialist in Women & Heart Failure