What does it feel like when your heart fails

How does it feel like when your heart fails

Cardiology, Heart Failure, Medicine

Heart failure is a common medical condition that requires attention and close follow up with your doctor. The heart is the engine of our bodies; it keeps us alive by pushing blood where it is needed. If our heart is damaged, it can lose its ability to pump blood forward. When this happens, other parts of the body like the kidneys and the brain will notice a drop in blood pressure. Because the body does not work well with low blood pressure, these other organs try to raise the blood pressure by increasing the amount of water inside the body. This makes sense in a situation where the low blood pressure is temporary. 

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Woman without heart failure

Heart failure causes an abnormal elevation in your weight

Abnormal increase in their weight

Heart failure causes fatigue

Fatigue

Heart failure causes water to accumulate in the body: swollen, heavy, tense legs

Water accumulating in the body

swollen, tense and heavy legs

Heart failure causes water to accumulate in your body: a distended belly

A growing belly

Heart failure causes the veins in your neck to become visible

The veins in the neck can become

swollen and more visible

Heart failure causes shortness of breath with walking

Shortness of breath occurs,

first with walking

Heart failure causes shortness of breath at rest

and eventually even at rest

Heart failure causes your heart rate to be high even when doing little

Heart rate beating fast all the time

even while doing little

Heart failure causes blood pressure that was previously well controlled to be elevated

Blood pressure that was well controlled

now is high all the time

To understand this better, think back to the time of the caveman. Imagine a caveman hunting for food. If an accident happens and he becomes injured and loses a lot of blood, this would cause the blood pressure to drop. The kidneys and brain would kick into action and increase the amount of water inside his body. This increase in water would help to raise the blood pressure and keep the caveman alive until he recovered from his injuries. When the heart engine fails, low blood pressure is more than just temporary. This leads to an abnormal accumulation of water that continues over time. Eventually, this excess water becomes a problem

In addition to these a person may notice that laying flat in bed will become very difficult as it will cause shortness of breath, a symptoms doctors call “orthopnea”; the person may need 3 or 4 pillows to be able to sleep. Also they may find themselves waking up in the middle of the night feeling like they can’t breathe. The combination of these symptoms should alert a person that has never had them before that he or she might have heart failure. For patients who already know they have a weak heart, these symptoms should alert them to seek medical attention.

About the Author
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Jose Taveras M.D. F.A.C.C.

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Dr. Taveras is a non-invasive cardiologist in the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Heart and Vascular Care in Bronx, New York. He trained in both internal medicine and pediatrics and is currently an assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Taveras is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He is the co-creator of Doctablet.

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Last Modified: Nov 21, 2017 @ 4:58 pm

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What does it feel like when your heart fails
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What does it feel like when your heart fails
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Heart failure is a common medical condition that requires close follow up with your doctor. Learn what are the common sings and symptoms of this condition.
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Doctablet®
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