Understanding Heart Failure -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on June 30, 2023
2 min read

The symptoms of heart failure can be related to the pooling of fluid in the body or can be secondary to decreased blood flow to the body. Some people with heart failure don't experience symptoms, but here are some of the more common signs:

  • Shortness of breath with exercise or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying down
  • Swollen legs, ankles, or abdomen
  • Dry, hacking cough, or wheezing

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue, palpitations, or pain during normal activities
  • Weight gain from fluid retention
  • Increased need to urinate during the night
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Your legs, ankles, or abdomen are swollen
  • You have difficulty breathing, especially if you wake up short of breath, or you cannot lie down flat without getting short of breath
  • You gain 2 pounds in one day or 5 pounds in one week
  • You have a feeling of fullness (bloating) in your stomach with a loss of appetite or nausea
  • You feel extreme fatigue or decreased ability to complete daily activities
  • You have a respiratory infection or a cough that has become worse
  • Your heart rate is fast, above 100 beats per minute
  • You experience a new irregular heart beat
  • You feel chest pain or discomfort during activity that is relieved with rest
  • You notice changes in sleep patterns, including difficulty sleeping or lying flat in bed, or needing to sleep a lot more than usual
  • You urinate less
  • You feel restless or confused
  • You suffer constant dizziness or lightheadedness
  • You have nausea or poor appetite