Your body and your heart can often respond to effects of heart failure so that you never notice any symptoms. Your heart compensates for added strain by working harder. However, as heart failure worsens, your heart can gradually become less able to keep pumping blood to the body. Additionally, when a situation worsens by small degrees over time, you might not even notice the trend. Your sense for what’s normal can become altered.
That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms of HF, and take note of any subtle changes in your body’s ability to compensate. Make sure your family members are aware of heart failure symptoms too, especially if they are involved in your heart failure care.
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Heart failure requires that you, your family and any caregivers pay close attention to any changes in your symptoms. If you notice anything new, or a sudden worsening of a current symptom, contact your health care professional right away. In many instances, your medical team can make changes to your medication or advise you on lifestyle changes that can help you feel better.
Also, learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack.
Which symptoms should I track?
Your health care team will tell you which heart failure symptoms you should track. The most common symptoms to track are:
- Any shortness of breath and or extra fatigue while moving through your regular daily routine.
- Your heart rate if you feel like your heart is racing or throbbing.
- Daily weight. Many people are first alerted to worsening heart failure when they notice a weight gain of more than two or three pounds in a 24-hour period or more than five pounds in a week. This weight gain may be due to retaining fluids since the heart is not functioning properly. It’s a good idea to track your weight and check in with your health care professional if you notice sudden changes. Make sure you know the amount of weight gain your health care professional considers to be a problem for you.
- Any swelling from fluids collecting in your body – most often in the ankles, lower legs and feet – and especially if you notice any increase in swelling.
- Blood pressure. It’s important to track blood pressure and to know your numbers.
- Confusion or impaired thinking. These symptoms might be first noticed by others in your family, so it could be helpful to invite their feedback.
- Other factors. You might also be asked to keep track of other factors, such as appetite, diuretic (“water pill”) use or your ability to sleep. If you have been prescribed oxygen, your health care professional might ask you to track how much oxygen you use.
The benefits of tracking
When you’re aware of the changes, you are more likely to take action and make the small changes in your lifestyle and treatment plan that can help you live your longest and healthiest life.