Lakeland Health Care

Signs of Heart Failure

More than 5 million Americans are living with congestive heart failure, and 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

At age 40, the lifetime risk of developing heart failure for both men and women is 1 in 5.

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Heart failure (or congestive heart failure) is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Congestive Heart Failure is often a silent disease where signs and symptoms can develop slowly over time. Some patients can have heart disease for years without knowing it.

The most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease (CAD), also referred to as coronary heart disease. CAD is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. It is usually caused by a build-up of fat and plaque on the walls of the arteries, causing them to narrow and slow down or restrict blood flow to the heart. Common symptoms of CAD include chest pain, chest discomfort (angina), shortness of breath, and fatigue with activity.

Causes of Coronary Artery Disease that may lead to heart failure include:

  • Being a male over age 40 or a post-menopausal female
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome (high triglycerides, high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, and high insulin levels)
  • Smoking
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) in another part of the body
  • Having had a stroke or abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive stress

Heart failure can be a serious, long-term condition. However, with proper treatment and by making necessary changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle, patients can live full lives of the highest quality possible.

Heart Failure Warning Signs

Heart failure can be managed through treatment and close adherence to all doctor recommendations. Patients can decrease  their chances of hospitalization by knowing the warning signs of heart failure.

  • Sudden weight-gain from fluid retention (3 or more pounds in 1 day, 5 or more pounds in 1 week)
  • Shortness of breath not related to exercise or exertion
  • Swelling of legs, ankles, or feet
  • Swelling or pain in the abdomen
  • Trouble sleeping (waking up short of breath, using more pillows)
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Frequent dry, hacking cough
  • Increased fatigue and weakness
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Nausea and decreased appetite
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing that may include white or pink phlegm
  • Decreased concentration or alertness

How Do I know if I Have Congestive Heart Failure?

Doctors diagnose congestive heart failure with a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) and blood tests.

I have been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, what's next?

Leeann Enix, RN, Congestive Heart Failure NavigatorBeing diagnosed with congestive heart failure can be a frightening experience for patients and their families. At Lakeland, we help ease those fears with the help of Leeann Enix, RN, CHF Navigator.

Leeann will work with you throughout your hospital stay, meeting one-on-one to gather background information, develop a treatment plan, skills and strategies for managing the disease and promoting the best quality of life. Leeann will also schedule post-discharge doctor appointments and may refer you to homecare services.

What treatment options are available?

While there is no cure for congestive heart failure, proper treatment including medication and lifestyle changes can drastically improve your quality of life.

  • Fluid and salt restrictions
  • Healthier eating
  • Light exercise
  • Quitting smoking

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Living Well with Heart Failure

This free class will teach you how to take control of heart failure so you can live life to the fullest!


Tuesday, August 5
5:30 - 6:30 pm
Lakeland Community Hospital, Watervliet

Tuesday, December 2
5:30 - 6:30 pm
Lakeland Community Hospital, Watervliet

Registration is required. Please call (269) 556-2808 or (866) 260-7544


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