Your heart serves as a pump, circulating blood and oxygen-rich nutrients throughout your body. However, in the case of heart failure, this pumping function becomes impaired, leading to insufficient circulation and potential build-up of fluid, commonly in the legs and lungs.
Your heart also struggles to supply adequate blood and oxygen to meet your body’s requirements. Consequently, individuals with heart failure often experience increased fatigue and shortness of breath.
Heart failure manifests in two primary types:
- Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF): In this form, the heart’s muscle weakens, resulting in an inability to propel blood with enough force to the rest of the body. This is also known as systolic heart failure.
- Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF): Here, the heart muscle encounters difficulty relaxing, and it can’t fill with enough blood. This is also referred to as diastolic heart failure.
Ejection fraction serves as a measure of the heart’s efficiency in pumping blood out to the body.
If you have heart failure, you are not alone, as more than 6 million Americans have this condition. Notably, it stands as the primary cause for hospitalizations among individuals aged 65 and above.
Although heart failure is a lifelong condition, managing it effectively can empower you to lead normal lives. The primary goal is to minimize emergency hospital visits and enhance the overall quality of life, allowing you to engage in routine activities without compromise.
Signs & Symptoms of Heart Failure
People who have heart failure often show a spectrum of symptoms that significantly impact their daily lives:
- Shortness of Breath: Even routine activities like dressing or climbing a flight of stairs can trigger noticeable breathlessness.
- Swelling: Fluid accumulation is common in various parts of the body, including the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, or veins in the neck.
- Extreme Fatigue: Overwhelming tiredness, classified as fatigue, becomes a pervasive experience for those with heart failure.
- Feelings of Weakness: A pervasive sense of weakness further contributes to the challenges faced by individuals dealing with heart failure.
- Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat: The heart’s rhythm may become erratic or accelerated, adding to the array of symptoms.
- Weight Changes: Swift weight gain or rapid fluctuations in weight are noticeable indicators of heart failure.
- Chest Discomfort: Experiencing pressure or heaviness in the chest, particularly when lying flat.
As the disease progresses, late-stage symptoms may become more apparent:
- Appetite Changes: Individuals may observe a diminishing appetite or a sensation of feeling full more quickly than usual.
- Weight Loss (Cardiac Cachexia): A condition known as cardiac cachexia, characterized by significant weight loss, may become evident in the later stages of heart failure.