When to Call Your Doctor About Heart Failure Symptoms


The keys to managing heart failure are to take your medications, make diet changes, exercise regularly and be active and monitor your health for new or worsening heart failure signs or symptoms. Also make sure to schedule appointments often with your health professional. Your doctor or nurse will tell you how often to visit.

When Should I Call My Doctor or Nurse?

Certain symptoms require an immediate doctor’s appointment. And, if your symptoms are discovered early, your doctor or nurse may just need to change your medications to relieve your symptoms. (Do not change or stop taking your medications without first talking to your doctor or nurse.) Make sure to contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the symptoms listed below:

  • Unexplained weight gain — 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week.
  • Increased swelling in your ankles, feet, legs or abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing) that is new, has become worse or occurs more often, especially if it occurs when you are at rest or when you wake from sleep feeling short of breath.
  • A feeling of fullness (bloating) in your stomach.v
  • Extreme fatigue or decreased ability to complete daily activities.
  • A respiratory infection or a cough that has become worse.
  • Coughing during the night.
  • Decreased urination, dark urine.
  • Restlessness, confusion.
  • Constant dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Nausea or poor appetite.
  • Vomiting.
  • Chest pain or discomfort during activity that is relieved with rest.
  • Changes in sleep patterns, including difficulty sleeping or feeling the need to sleep a lot more than usual.
  • Fast heart rate or a heart rate around 120 beats per minute at rest.
  • A new or a more noticeably irregular heart beat.
  • Any other symptom that causes stress or concern.

Important: DO NOT wait for your symptoms to become so severe that you need to seek emergency treatment. Always keep the following close to your phone for easy access:

  • A list of your doctors' phone numbers.
  • A current list of your medications and dosages.
  • A list of any allergies you have.

When Should I Go to the Emergency Department?

If you experience certain symptoms, emergency treatment may be necessary. Go to your local emergency department or call 9-1-1 if you have:

  • New chest pain or discomfort that is severe, unexpected and occurs with shortness of breath, sweating, nausea or weakness.
  • Angina-type chest pain that lasts longer than 15 minutes and is not relieved by rest and/or medication.
  • Fast heart rate (more than 120 to 150 beats per minute), especially if you are short of breath.
  • Shortness of breath NOT relieved by rest.
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis (inability to move) in your arms or legs.
  • Sudden onset of a severe headache.
  • Fainting spell with loss of consciousness.