Heart Failure Signs and Symptoms
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Types, Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure

Your heart failure specialist will categorize your individual heart failure condition by your heart's function, your condition's clinical presentation and progression, and your heart failure's effect on the anatomy and structure of your heart.

The various types of heart failure include:

Systolic Vs. Diastolic Heart Failure (Functional)

Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood throughout your body. A normal heart pumps about 60 percent of its blood with each heartbeat. The percentage of blood pumped in a heartbeat, called the ejection fraction, helps your doctor distinguish the type of heart failure you have.

Systolic heart failure, or reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) develops when the heart is weak and unable to pump enough blood to the body. Diastolic heart failure, or preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) develops when the heart is unable to properly fill with blood. The symptoms which develop with both forms of heart failure are identical, but the treatments prescribed may be different.

Acute Vs. Chronic Heart Failure (Timing)

Heart failure's occurrence and progression can be described as acute or chronic. Acute heart failure refers to the new, sudden onset or worsening of the condition (decompensated), while chronic heart failure describes the long-term progression of the condition (compensated).

Signs & Symptoms of Acute Heart Failure (Sudden):

  • Severe shortness of breath, especially while walking or bending over to put on one's shoes.
  • Rapid heartbeat and palpitations, which may cause the heart to stop
  • Sudden fluid retention
  • Sudden weight gain and swelling
  • Sudden and severe chest pain

These sudden acute heart failure symptoms can occur over a day or a few days with symptoms getting worse. If you are experiencing these sudden signs or symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately and may need to seek emergency medical treatment. Taking your medications as directed, following your heart healthy diet, and seeing your doctor regularly can help prevent these acute episodes from occurring.

Signs & Symptoms of Chronic Heart Failure (Long-term):

  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, especially while walking or bending over to put on one's shoes.
  • Trouble walking long-distances
  • Fluid retention
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, and legs
  • Irregular heartbeat

These long-term chronic heart failure symptoms are those you may have to live with on a daily basis. These long-lasting symptoms need to be managed closely on an ongoing basis by your comprehensive care team of doctors and nurses who specialize in heart failure.

Left Side Versus Right Side Heart Failure (Anatomical)
The heart has a right side and a left side. Each side of the heart has an atrium and a ventricle. The right side of the heart receives blood from the body (without oxygen) and directs blood to the lungs (to get oxygen). The left side of the heart receives blood with oxygen from the lungs and directs it out through the aorta (the main artery from heart) to the rest of the body. When one or more of these chambers is not working properly, heart failure symptoms can present.

When the right side of the heart is weakened or damaged then the right ventricle cannot pump enough blood to the lungs to get new oxygen to send to the left side of the heart. If the blood cannot get pumped forward then it gets backed up. Since the blood is coming to the right side of the heart from the body this is where blood can pool.

Signs & Symptoms of Right Side Heart Failure:

  • Swelling in the feet, ankles and legs
  • Distended abdomen or bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, especially while walking or bending over to put on one's shoes.
  • Irregular heartbeat

When the left side of the heart is weakened or damaged then the left ventricle cannot pump enough blood to the body and major organs. If the blood cannot pump forward then it gets backed up. Since the blood is coming to the left side from the lungs, this is where the blood can get pooled.

Signs & Symptoms of Left Side Heart Failure:

  • Shortness of breath, especially while walking or bending over to put on one's shoes.
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Irregular heartbeat

You can also experience signs and symptoms suggesting both right and left side heart failure. Should you experience these signs and symptoms always contact your doctor. Taking your heart failure medications as directed can help minimize these signs and symptoms.

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