Heart Failure: Signs Your Treatment Isn’t Working

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on September 01, 2023
2 min read

If you or a loved one has heart failure, you probably know how important good daily habits are to treatment. A healthy weight, active lifestyle, and proper medication are all key ways to take charge of the disease.

But even if you’ve been carefully following doctor’s orders, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for the return of symptoms. That’s because heart failure can be under control for a time and then become an issue again.

Keep up with your regular checkups, and know which symptoms may mean your treatment needs to be tweaked.

When your heart can’t properly fill and empty, blood backs up in your veins. This causes fluid to leak into your lungs. Your doctor may call it pulmonary edema. This can make it hard to breathe during activities, rest, or even sleep. A sudden lack of breath might wake you up. You may need to prop yourself up with extra pillows to breathe easier. This constant search for air can leave you tired and anxious.

When your heart doesn’t pump right, the body starts to move blood from less vital parts like your arms and legs to the centers for survival -- the heart and brain. This can leave you feeling exhausted after everyday activities.

An ongoing wheeze or cough that brings up white or slightly blood-colored mucus can signal fluid building up in your lungs. Call the doctor if you notice it.

Fluid can build up in your tissues just like it does in your lungs. As a result, your feet, ankles, legs, or belly may swell. Your shoes and socks may feel tight. You might notice a sudden weight gain.

Because blood is being moved away from your digestive system, your appetite may not be as big as it usually is. You might also feel sick to your stomach.

When your heart struggles to pump the right amount of blood, it may speed up to make up for it. This can lead to palpitations, which could cause your heart to race or feel like it’s fluttering or throbbing.

Unusual amounts of things like sodium in your blood can bring disorientation, confusion, or memory loss.

If you’ve seen any of these seven red flags, get medical help right away. Waiting for symptoms to get worse can be dangerous. With the right care, you can keep things under control.