Time and again, there have been articles, news, journals etc educating people all over the world about how to maintain your overall health, particularly the heart. As proper functioning of this vital organ is essential for maintaining life, more and more people are now, being cautious and careful towards their diets to promote the health of their hearts. But as the awareness of heart health is increasing, the number of cases of heart disease has also, been on the rise. The reason for the same may be attributed to the lack of knowledge regarding the normal and abnormal functioning of this four-chambered organ. Though people are more conversant with the importance of food and exercise for healthy heart, they often tend to ignore certain signs that might indicate things going downhill. Thus, gain knowledge about some of the warning signs and symptoms that might indicate impending heart failure and seek professional help on time.
Symptoms of Heart Failure
#1. Shortness of breath or Breathlessness:
Breathlessness or trouble breathing during activities or exercise may be due to the backing up of blood into the veins that bring oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart. As a result of this back pressure, the fluid accumulates in the lungs interfering with the breathing process. And as the blood backs up and congests the body tissues, heart failure is also, termed as ‘congestive heart failure’. Mild shortness of breath might occur while ascending stairs or doing light exercise but as the condition advances, the patient might have difficulty breathing even at rest or while lying flat resulting in restless, anxious or disturbed sleep.
As the functioning of the heart declines, it becomes unable to pump the required amount of blood to the body parts and hence, to meet the bodily needs, the blood is diverted from less important organs like the limbs making them weak. This results in a tired feeling throughout the day with difficulty performing daily activities.
#3. Continuous cough or wheezing:
The back pressure caused by the accumulating fluid in the lungs leads to chronic, persistent cough or wheezing sound in the chest that is worse at night or lying down and produces thick, white phlegm tinged with blood.
#4. Swelling or edema:
Due to the fact that the heart is not pumping enough blood out to the organs, the blood reaching the heart through the veins starts accumulating causing a back pressure on all the tissues. Moreover, as the blood flow to other organs is restricted, it affects their functioning too and thus, the kidneys are unable to eliminate sodium and water adequately and produces hormones that lead to fluid retention or swelling in various body tissues such as ankles, feet, legs, abdomen or veins of the neck. Mild swelling might go unnoticed but if your shoe feels tighter than usual, it is always wise to consult your doctor about it to keep a check on the functioning of your heart.
#5. Irregular Heartbeat or Arrhythmia:
To compensate for the lacking pumping capacity, the heart tries to speed up the process by beating faster and this causes rapid, racing, irregular heartbeats or pounding, fluttering palpitations as one experiences when he or she is anxious or fearful.
#6. Digestive problems:
As the blood flow to the digestive system is also affected, the patient might feel nauseous or anorexic as the food is not properly digested. Lack of appetite or full- feeling even when not eaten indicates that the organs are not functioning optimally.
#7. Confusion or Impaired thinking:
Decreased blood flow to other essential organs such as brain tends to affect the memory, concentration or thinking capability of the patient. Also, as the kidneys lack the capability of removing excess of sodium from the body, its level tends to rise in the blood leading to feeling of disorientation, decreased alertness or confusion. Although all other signs are better judged by the patients themselves, these mental signals are first noted by the people around them.
#8. Weight changes:
Due to the collection of fluid all over the body, there is a tendency to gain weight quickly in a majority of patients. Sudden increase in your body weight by over 2 kgs in a matter of a few days could be a sign of fluid retention due to heart failure and thus, requires immediate medical attention. In addition to consulting your doctor, start cutting down on your salt intake to control the amount of sodium in your blood. However, owing to the lack of appetite or abnormal digestion process, some patients can witness unexpected weight loss too.
#9. Frequent urination:
The collection of fluid and poor functioning of the kidneys lead to frequent urge to urinate, especially at night.
Though chest pain usually occurs if the reason for heart failure is heart attack, but chest discomfort no matter how mild it is, should be considered seriously and taken care of to prevent its worsening. The discomfort could be in the form of pressure, tightness or an uncomfortable feeling just below the breastbone, slightly towards the left side of the center of the chest and indicates something troubling your heart. Get your blood pressure monitored and other examinations or tests done as soon as possible to tap the disease in its initial stages. Chest pain accompanied by sweating or fainting spells calls for greater attention and must be attended to immediately.
Although there could be other reasons for the development of the above signs and symptoms, knowing about them is essential to be able to seek medical help at the earliest. So don’t wait for the more pronounced and obvious symptoms of heart disease to develop and be observant to the presence of the above symptoms to prevent this life threatening disease. However, in case you are experiencing some of these symptoms, do not jump to the conclusion just yet. Your health care provider would be the best person to make a final diagnosis and take necessary remedial actions for the same. Read more of our Top 10 Health Tips.
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