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If you have questions about heart failure, we have the answers. Download our free heart failure guide to learn about:

  • Heart failure testing
  • Surgery for heart failure
  • Causes of heart failure
  • Congenital heart disease
  • How you may feel
  • Medical treatment
  • Heart transplant
  • Your role in heart failure control

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About Heart Failure

What is Heart Failure?

A healthy heart pumps oxygen–rich blood to the entire body and circulates "used" blood back to the heart. In heart failure, the heart is unable to supply enough oxygen to all parts of the body. There are several types of heart failure: left-sided or left ventricular heart failure, right-sided or right ventricular heart failure, and congestive heart failure.

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure and heart failure are terms frequently used interchangeably. However, in congestive heart failure, blood flow slows down and begins to back up in the veins, causing excess fluids to accumulate in the body's tissues. There is most often swelling in the legs and ankles, but it can occur in other parts of the body as well. Sometimes fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing, causing shortness of breath.

To learn more about heart failure signs, symptoms and treatments, download our free heart failure guide.

Heart Failure Treatments at Penn

Learn more about advanced options for heart failure including transplant and ventricular assist devices.

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Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure

Heart failure and its symptoms can range from mild to severe.

What are the Early Signs of Heart Failure?

Early heart failure can go undetected, but there are some early symptoms that often resemble a common cold or flu.

  • Fatigue
  • Chills and fever
  • Body aches

What are the Symptoms of More Advanced Heart Failure?

As heart failure advances, more obvious symptoms usually develop:

  • Sudden Weight Gain - 3-4 lbs in 1-2 days or 2 lbs overnight.
  • Shortness of breath - Sometimes occurring at all times, only with exertion, or just waking up breathless at night.
  • Swelling in the legs and ankles - Also known as edema, the swelling is caused by a fluid buildup.
  • Frequent, dry, hacking cough - Most often occurs when lying down.
  • Swelling, bloating or pain in the belly - Can make you feel full much earlier while eating.
  • Loss of appetite (or nausea) - The digestive system receives less blood, causing a feeling of being full or sick.
  • Trouble sleeping - May be caused by problems other than heart failure. Sometimes solved by propping up on two or more pillows.

Many of these symptoms happen for other reasons, too. So your doctor will check your heart and lungs and, if needed, order a blood test and/or sleep study to help find out the cause.

To learn more about heart failure signs, symptoms and treatments, download our free heart failure guide.

Learn More About Heart Failure

If you have more questions about heart failure, we have the answers.

Download Our Free Guide to Heart Failure