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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

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Knowing the Warning Signs with CHF

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
November 16, 2022
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When you have Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), 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.

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

Knowing When to Call Your Provider or 9-1-1:

ALL CLEAR - GREEN ZONE

  • NO shortness of breath
  • NO weight gain of more than 2 pounds in 1 day (weight may change 1 to 2 pounds in a day)
  • NO swelling in the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen
  • NO chest pain
  • NO other significant symptoms

CAUTION - YELLOW ZONE (CALL YOUR DOCTOR)

  • 3 pounds weight gain in 1 day OR 5 pounds weight gain in 1 week
  • MORE shortness of breath
  • You need to sleep upright in a chair in order to breathe
  • MORE swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Feeling MORE tired than usual
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling uneasy…you know something isn’t right

EMERGENCY - RED ZONE (CALL 9-1-1)

  • Struggling to breathe
  • Unrelieved shortness of breath while sitting still
  • Experiencing chest pain
  • Have confusion or can’t think clearly

Takeaways

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.

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