Heart Failure


Common Heart Failure Symptoms

Heart failure symptoms can vary, depending on the type and severity of the heart failure.  

Acute heart failure comes on suddenly, and may be the result of a heart attack.  Symptoms may include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Trouble breathing with just a little bit of activity or even when you are at rest
  • Swelling of your legs, feet, or ankles
  • Chest pressure or discomfort
  • Sudden anxiety or confusion
  • Cough (sometimes coughing up pink foam)
  • Dizziness
If you have any of these symptoms, get medical attention immediately.

Chronic heart failure is an ongoing medical condition. If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, watch for these symptoms of chronic heart failure, and let your healthcare provider know if they become worse. 

Fluid Retention (Buildup)

When the heart’s pumping action becomes weaker, less blood flows through the body with each heartbeat. This results in fluid that builds up in different parts of the body. 

  • Lungs. Fluid buildup in the lungs leads to coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. This may start with wheezing during activity. It may then lead to congestion and coughing at night, and even to having difficulty breathing even when you’re resting or lying down. You may notice that you have to prop your head up in bed in order to breathe more comfortably, or that you may need to sit up at night to catch your breath. 
  • Feet and ankles. Extra fluid makes your feet and ankles swell and your legs feel heavy. 
  • Liver. When fluid builds up in the liver, it may cause stomach problems. These include discomfort in the upper right part of your belly, a sense of fullness after eating, loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting. 

Other Heart Failure Symptoms

  • Decreased alertness and difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Low energy
  • Gaining weight
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (a feeling of pounding or your heart “skipping beats”)


Last Updated August 2020