Symptoms Each individual may experience symptoms differently for Congestive Heart Failure; however, the most common symptoms include: Shortness of breath during rest, exercise, or while lying flat; Weight gain; Visible swelling of the legs and ankles (due to a buildup of fluid), and, occasionally, swelling of the abdomen; Fatigue and weakness; Loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal pain; Persistent cough that can cause blood-tinged sputum. 

Diagnosis Congestive Heart Failure diagnosis made should be made through a medical examination in which a complete medical history, physical exam, and diagnostic procedures for heart failure are performed.  Some tests include: Chest X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. Echocardiogram (also called echo). A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to evaluate the motion of the heart’s chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor as an ultrasound transducer is passed over the heart. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and can sometimes detect heart muscle damage. BNP testing.

Treatment The cause of the heart failure will dictate the treatment protocol. If the heart failure is caused by a valve disorder, then surgery may be performed. If the heart failure is caused by a disease, such as anemia, then the underlying disease will be treated. Although there is no cure for heart failure due to damaged heart muscle – usually heart disease from poor diet and lack of exercise – many forms of treatment have been used to treat symptoms very effectively.

Treatment of heart failure may include controlling risk factors.  Patients may be asked to: Quitting smoking, Lose weight (if overweight) and increasing moderate exercise; Restrict salt and fat from the diet; Avoiding alcohol; Get proper rest; Control blood sugar if diabetic; Control blood pressure; Limit fluid intake; and drug therapy.

For more information, contact the American Heart Association at