Symptom #1: Shortness of breath
Everyone gets winded once in a while, but people who might be developing heart failure experience shortness of breath that’s a bit different. Dr. Nicole Harkin, a preventive cardiologist and founder of Whole Heart Cardiology in San Francisco, tells Yahoo Life that when the heart cannot pump blood properly, the blood starts to back up, causing congestion and fluid buildup in the lungs. She says these patients may feel breathless while performing normal daily activities that they “used to be able to do easily,” such as walking or climbing stairs
Symptom #2: Feeling fatigued
Heart failure also impacts the heart’s ability to pump enough oxygen to the muscles within your body. Without the right amount of oxygen, those muscles can get worn out quickly. “People with heart failure often notice that they're experiencing fatigue or extreme exhaustion,” explains Harkin. “This is because the heart isn't able to meet the metabolic demands of the body.”
Symptom #3: Abnormal swelling
As blood flow from the heart slows, over time, it can back up in your veins. “The pressure from this backup causes fluid to accumulate in the soft tissues of the legs, as well as sometimes in the abdomen,” explains Harkin. This buildup of excess fluid in body tissues is called edema and is another indication of heart failure.
“How you can check for swelling in your legs is by touching your finger on your shin,” Harkin instructs. “If you notice that you can really see the [deep] imprint of your finger, that's called pitting edema and may be a sign of heart failure. Talk to your doctor if you notice this.”
NICOLE HARKIN: It's very easy to overlook, but it's so important to pay attention to your body. It might be telling you something's going on with your heart. Here are three symptoms of heart failure to know about.
Number one, shortness of breath. Typically patients will notice that they're not able to do activities that they usually could do. Like, climbing stairs without feeling short of breath. The heart is responsible for pumping oxygen rich blood forward into the arteries. This supplies oxygen to all the cells, muscles, and organs that need it in order to do their functions.
When the heart can't pump properly, this blood that would ordinarily go forward into the arteries starts to go backwards when this pressure starts to build up. Fluid then seeps from the vessels and goes into the organ that's next to the heart, the lungs resulting in shortness of breath. Keep an eye out for shortness of breath particularly if you're noticing it with activities that you used to be able to do easily or if it's waking you up from Sleep.
Number two, fatigue. Those with heart failure often feel incredibly exhausted and unable to complete the task throughout their day that they would normally be able to do. When your heart isn't pumping very well, it's depriving the muscles in the legs and other places in the body with oxygen. As your heart works over time, you can find yourself feeling worn out and fatigued. So this could be a warning sign of heart failure.
Number three, swelling. Individuals with heart failure often notice swelling in their legs. This is called edema. As the heart isn't able to pump the blood forward, and it starts to back up. Not only does it back up into the lungs, but it starts to back up all the way down into the veins of the leg. Over time the pressure from this backup causes fluid to accumulate in the soft tissues of the leg as well as sometimes in the abdomen. So people will notice that their legs become swollen or sometimes their abdomen becomes swollen.
How you can check for swelling in your legs is by touching your finger on your shin. If you notice that you can really see the imprint of your finger, that's called pitting edema and maybe a sign of heart failure. Signs of heart failure like shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling in your legs can often be mistaken for other things. But if you do notice them, please talk to your doctor and get heart failure ruled out.