Healthy Heart

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive Heart Failure is also called as heart failure, CHF, cardiac failure, left sided heart failure or right sided heart failure. It is a condition in which the heart's function to contract and pump blood is inadequate to meet the needs of the body and the lungs. The blood from the right ventricles is pumped to the lungs and from the left ventricle to the body, respectively.


Do you suspect that you may be having a heart failure? What is a heart failure? Does it mean heart has stopped pumping completely? No. It only means that heart is not able to pump enough blood so as to meet the body requirements. It’s not able to achieve the targets.

Does it happen at one go? No. It’s chronic/ long standing.


Initially, the heart failure doesn’t any show symptoms in most of the cases. In the beginning, the body and heart make up for the inefficiency the heart is showing. The heart may respond to the problem by pumping faster. This is known as compensation. The body is likely to have symptoms, when the heart is having more trouble and is unable to compensate. The signs and symptoms are prone to get more severe, if the heart inefficiency is not medically managed.


Here is a list of symptoms of heart failure. If you have any one of the following symptoms, you don’t have to worry. But, if you have more than one symptom, you have to show up to your doctor. Though you don’t have heart diseases or you don’t think you are at high risk, still you should meet your doctor.


In the early stages of beginning of heart failure, the patient presents with minor symptoms, such as:

  1. Tiredness and fatigue
  2. Shortness of breath on mild exertion
  3. Palpitations
  4. Weakness and dizziness


As the heart failure progresses, fluid starts accumulating in the lungs and peripheries of the body. These leads to more major symptoms like :

  1. Breathlessness/ Shortness of breath
  2. Long standing cough/ wheezing
  3. Increased heart rate
  4. Swelling: Swelling is seen in feet, ankles, legs
  5. Excessive tiredness, dizziness/ light headedness
  6. Vomiting sensation, lack of appetite/ you don’t feel hungry often
  7. Confusion
  8. Bloating in the stomach
  9. Frequent need to urinate, especially at night
  10. Unexplained weight gain


Symptoms of sudden heart failure : Congestive Heart Failure shows the extreme symptoms in patients. It is a medical emergency and can prove fatal if not given immediate medical care. The symptoms may include:

  1. Severe breathlessness/shortness of breath
  2. Irregular heartbeat and pulse rate
  3. Coughing mucus which is pink and foamy in consistency


Heart Failure is classified into stages depending on the signs and symptoms. The treatment is based on the symptoms and is highly subjective. No two patients may present with exactly same symptoms and can’t be treated under the same treatment protocol. In case your doctor diagnoses your condition as heart failure, you have to keep a note of symptoms. If you experience any sudden changes, inform your doctor.


As heart failure progresses, symptoms get worse! You may feel tired by doing very basic activities such as dressing up or walking in your room. Here’s an elaboration on symptoms of heart failure:



What a heart failure patient feels

The reason behind

Dyspnea/shortness of



Breathless while doing any activity/at rest/ while sleeping, it may wake you up. You may wake up feeling tired/ restless/ anxious.


If you feel breathless when you sleep, prop up your body while sleeping, by using two pillows.


Fluid leaks into your lungs. This happens because fluid backs up in

blood vessels that send purified/oxygenated blood to your heart. This

is a result of reduced pumping efficiency of heart.





Wheezing: A high pitched whistling sound

while breathing out

When you cough you spit white/ pink tinged mucus.


Caused by fluid which is built up in lungs.


Impaired thinking


Loss of memory and feeling disoriented


A change in the composition of blood

such as Sodium levels can cause confusion.


An increase in the heart rate


The heart rate increases so much that you feel as if you are racing.


In heart failure, heart is not able to meet the targets for required blood.


So, heart beats faster as a compensatory mechanism. Thus it tries to make up for the required amount of blood by pumping more

number of times.


Lack of appetite

You feel less hungry than usual. You may also feel a vomiting sensation

which prevents you from having food.

Your digestive system receives less blood, thus it disturbs digestion.




Fluid builds up in your feet, ankles, legs and abdomen. You will notice a weight gain. Your shoes won’t fit you.


As heart has slowed down, fluid builds up in the body. Kidneys don’t

excrete the usual amount of urine, thus there is sodium and water retention increasing your weight.


An excessive tiredness that prevents you from doing day to day activities such as walking/ climbing stairs or lifting usual loads.


Reduced efficiency of heart, diverts blood from less important parts like

muscles to more important organs like heart and kidneys. So, muscles are tired.

Abdominal Bloating

Swollen or tender abdomen, poor absorption of food and medicines, low grade fever

Blood and fluid into the gastrointestinal organs or abdomen

Urination at night

Lesser urination in the day and frequent urination at night

Poor blood flow to the kidneys and fluid in the legs getting into the main circulation when the patient lies down, respectively

Tendency to feel cold

Feeling cold in the lower and upper limbs

Poor circulation in the peripheries of the body

Erectile Dysfunction

Inability to maintain or achieve erection

Social, physiological, psychological and related to medications


Only one symptom from the above fails to set an alarm for heart failure, but there is a need to consult a healthcare professional, if the patient has more than one of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. A thorough heart investigation is always recommended depending on the symptoms because congestive heart failure needs immediate and timely medical attention.