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Knowing the Warning Signs with CHF

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
February 11, 2022

When you have congestive heart failure, you may not have any symptoms at all. But over time, and depending on what stage you are in, you may develop some that are quite scary. Before you get into one of those situations, it is important to know what are typical symptoms, and what is a warning sign of a more urgent issue.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) happens when the heart doesn't pump blood as well as it should leading to a backup of fluid in the heart, and many symptoms such as false weight gain. Here are some other definitions you may need to know as you learn about your condition.

Common Symptoms of CHF Include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Buildup of excess fluid in body tissues (edema) causing swelling
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Lack of appetite or nausea
  • Impaired thinking
  • Increased heart rate

When to Call Your Nurse, Cardiologist, or Family Practitioner:

  • If your weight rises more than 3 lbs in a day or more than 5 lbs in a week
  • You have shortness of breath
  • You have swelling in the legs or hands.
  • Unable to breathe when lying down
  • Or specific guidelines provided by your Cardiologist


Regardless of your stage of heart failure, stay aware of your symptoms. While some symptoms are common and routine for someone with heart failure,  if you have trouble breathing while laying down, or if you weigh yourself daily and have gained a lot in a day or a week, and have some other or worsening symptoms, then this could be a sign of something more serious. Discuss with your doctor or cardiologist what they would prefer you do in a serious situation. If you don’t know what to do, call your doctor and call emergency if needed.