While symptoms may not always be present, they tend to become most noticeable during physical exertion as people often describe difficulty exercising, and feelings of fatigue and dizziness. As the heart struggles to pump sufficient blood to the body, and blood pressure drops, the body tries to compensate by triggering hormone and nerve signals to increase the blood volume through water retention.
It may also start beating faster while the heart muscles thicken and the ventricles stretch to accommodate more blood. But the heart still isn’t beating effectively enough to push this now increased volume of blood through the system and so fluid begins to build up in the body resulting in excess fluid entering the lungs and other body tissues.
Symptoms soon become evident as the heart continues to struggle, the organs continue being deprived of blood and the excess water builds up in the system.
In addition to those already mentioned, other symptoms of congestive heart failure often include:
- Edema – often noticed as swelling of the ankles, legs and abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing sounds as a result of water build up in lungs
- Persistent cough with white, frothy or blood-tinged phlegm
- Sudden weight gain (caused by fluid retention)
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mild confusion or decreased alertness
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
If heart failure is suspected, further evaluations such as blood tests, chest x-rays and an echocardiogram will be necessary.