Congestive heart failure affects approximately 6.5 million people in the United States, preventing their bodies from getting the oxygen-rich blood they need. This serious condition is progressive and develops in stages — from class I to IV — which means recognizing the early signs is paramount.
At Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists, Inc. our team of highly experienced cardiovascular specialists believes that education is key when it comes to your health. To that end, we’ve pulled together a few of the more common signs that you may be developing congestive heart failure with the goal of giving us ample time to take action.
Congestive heart failure at a glance
The primary function of your heart is to circulate oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body, and it performs this task around the clock. Let’s run some numbers associated with your heart’s workload: This organ pumps the entire volume of your blood through your body three times every minute. To do this, your heart beats about 100,000 times a day, or 35 million times a year.
With congestive heart failure, the pumping function of your heart isn’t working properly, which deprives your body of the blood and oxygen it needs to function optimally.
Congestive heart failure can develop for any number of reasons, including as a result of:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Structural issues
- Faulty valves
No matter what causes the condition, it generally progresses in stages, which is why knowing the early signs of congestive heart failure is key.
The early signs of heart failure
In its early stages (classes I and II), you may only notice symptoms when you’re active, and these symptoms generally include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue or weakness
- Swelling around your lower extremities (legs, ankles, and feet)
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
When you’re at rest, these symptoms generally go away.
As heart failure progresses
As your heart continues to lose pumping capacity, the symptoms we listed above get progressively worse. If you’re starting to notice that any exertion leads to shortness of breath or fatigue, these are sure signs that something is wrong with your cardiovascular health. In its most advanced stage (class IV), patients with congestive heart failure feel symptoms whether they’re active or resting.
Although shortness of breath and tiring easily are the top signs of heart failure, in its later stages you may also experience:
- Coughing and wheezing accompanied by discolored phlegm
- Swelling in your abdomen
- Fluid retention
You may also feel pain in your chest if your heart failure is caused by a previous heart attack.
The best way to treat congestive heart failure is to catch the condition in its earlier stages. At this point, there’s much we can do to mitigate the problem through certain medications and lifestyle changes.
If your heart failure has progressed, we can explore more aggressive options, such as a cardioverter defibrillator or a left ventricular assist device.
The bottom line is that we want to see you at the first signs of trouble so that we can take early and effective action to prevent your heart failure from progressing. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we listed above, please contact one of our three locations in Mountain View, Monterey, or Watsonville, California, to set up an appointment.