What Is Heart Failure?
Heart failure is when the heart can’t pump as well as it should. Because the heart has a hard time getting blood to the rest of the body, people with heart failure can feel weak and tired. Heart failure is more common in older people, but can occur at any age. It can be caused by many different conditions. High blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease and other heart problems can increase the risk for heart failure. Treating these conditions may help to prevent heart failure.
What Are the Warning Signs of Heart Failure?
• Feeling out of breath during activity or at rest
• Wheezing or coughing
• Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or stomach area
• Always feeling tired or having trouble with everyday activities
• Feeling full or having a sick stomach
• A feeling like the heart is racing, pounding, or not beating normally
As heart failure gets worse, the symptoms may also get worse.
How Is Heart Failure Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and give you a physical exam. This includes listening to your heart and lungs and checking your legs, feet and stomach for swelling. Some tests your doctor may order are:
• Blood tests to check for signs of heart failure
• Chest X-rays to check for fluid buildup or an enlarged heart
• Electrocardiogram, sometimes called EKG or ECG, to record your heart’s rhythm and
• Echocardiogram, sometimes called an “echo,” which uses sound waves to create a
picture of your heart as it beats
• Exercise stress test to check for problems with your heart during exercise, while your
heart is working hard