What are the symptoms of heart failure?
The main symptoms are:
- shortness of breath – when you are being active or at rest
- swelling – of your feet, ankles, stomach and lower back areas
- fatigue – feeling unusually tired or weak
Symptoms occur because the heart does not have enough strength to pump blood all the way round the body efficiently. This can cause fluid to pool in the feet and legs. If this fluid is left unmanaged, it can build and spread to your stomach area and sit beneath your lungs. This reduces their ability to expand and makes you short of breath.
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Medication and making changes to the way you live can make a real difference to these symptoms. People with heart failure experience different symptoms and everyone copes in different ways, so speak to your GP and your heart failure nurse about what is best for you.
For more information about understanding and managing the symptoms of heart failure, take a look at our advice and information on living with heart failure.
What causes heart failure?
There are lots of reasons why you might be diagnosed with heart failure. It can be sudden or it can happen slowly over months or even years.
The most common causes are:
- heart attack
- high blood pressure
- cardiomyopathy (diseases of the heart muscle. Sometimes these are inherited from your family and sometimes they are caused by other things, such as viral infections).
Heart failure can also be caused by:
- heart valve problems
- alcohol or recreational drugs
- an uncontrolled irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- congenital heart conditions (ones you’re born with)
- a viral infection affecting the heart muscle
- some cancer treatments.