Heart failure is when the heart does not pump or fill with blood well. This causes the heart to lag behind in its job of moving blood throughout the body. This can lead to symptoms such as swelling, trouble breathing, and feeling tired. If you have heart failure, your heart has not actually "failed" or stopped beating. It just isn't working as well as it should.
What are the symptoms of Heart Failure?
Changes in breathing. Every morning, when you get up, you need to check and look for changes in breathing. Ask yourself these questions:
Can I breathe as well as I normally can?
Am I getting out of breath doing things I can normally do without a problem?
Am I coughing more than usual?
Did I use more pillows than usual to sleep last night?
Changes in weight. Weigh yourself every morning after using the bathroom but before eating. We typically call this “Daily Weights.” Write down your weight on a calendar. Then ask yourself:
Has my weight gone up or gone down compared to yesterday? If so, by how many pounds?
Has my weight gone up or gone down compared to a week ago? If so, by how many pounds?
New or worse swelling. Ask yourself:
Are my ankles more swollen than usual?
Do my sock and shoes feel tighter?
Do my clothes feel tighter at the waist?
Do my rings fit more snugly?
Changes in your ability to do everyday things. Ask yourself:
Can I do all the things I normally do, such as get dressed on my own, make meals, or go for walks?
Do I feel dizzy or more tired than usual?
Do I have any new symptoms?
Do I have pressure or pain in my chest?
Now that you know the symptoms of heart failure, what should you do?
The Three Zones of Heart Failure
If you can breathe easily, don’t have chest pain, weigh the same as yesterday or last week, and can stay active…YOU ARE OFFICIALLY IN THE GREEN ZONE, AND THIS ZONE IS YOUR GOAL!
Keep up the good work! Make sure to keep weighing yourself every day, continue to eat a low salt diet, and keep all your medical appointments!
However, if you’ve noticed these following symptoms:
Gained 3 pounds in 1 day or 5 pounds in 1 week; are more short of breath; have more swelling in your feet, ankles, legs, or stomach; feel more tired; have a new unusual cough; need to sleep sitting in a chair or have trouble breathing when lying flat, then…YOU ARE IN THE YELLOW ZONE, WHICH IS A WARNING ZONE.
Finally, if you are experiencing severe symptoms such as:
Struggling to breathe even at rest; have crushing chest pain or discomfort that is separate from your incision; confusion or unable to think clearly, then…YOU ARE IN THE RED ZONE, WHICH IS AN EMERGENCY. Call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest Emergency Room. Do not drive yourself.