More than 5.7 million Americans are living with heart failure and another 600,000 are diagnosed each year. Heart failure is a condition where the heart is not able to effectively pump enough blood to meet the oxygen and nutrient needs of the body. The chambers of the heart may respond by stretching to carry more blood to pump through the body or by becoming more stiff and thickened. This helps to keep the blood moving for a while, but in time, the heart muscle may weaken and is unable to pump as strongly. As a result, the kidneys respond by causing the body to retain fluid (water) and sodium. If fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs, the body becomes congested, known as congestive heart failure.
Heart Failure Symptoms
Your physician will likely “classify” your heart failure condition according to the severity of your symptoms. This classification system, known as the New York Heart Association (NYHA) Functional Classification, places you into one of four categories based on your physical activity limitations. Click to view the NYHA classification categories and AHA Stages.
- Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Persistent cough or wheezing
- Increased need to urinate at night
- Swelling of your abdomen
- Sudden weight gain from fluid retention
- Lack of appetite and nausea
- High blood pressure