Know these signs

Know these signs

The heart’s job is to pump oxygen and blood full of nutrients around the body so it can work normally. When your heart isn’t pumping strongly enough, your body can’t get the blood and oxygen it needs, which may cause symptoms.

Can you recognize the signs of Heart Failure (HF)?

If you have HF, or are caring for someone who does, here are the most important symptoms to monitor. Keep in mind that you may have some symptoms, but not others. Call your doctor if you notice new symptoms or if those you already have become worse.

What to look out for and why it happens


Shortness of breath with everyday activities

The heart can’t pump enough to keep up with the blood supply. This causes fluid to back up and leak into the lungs.


Swelling in legs, feet, and ankles

Fluid backs up and collects in the tissues. The heart isn’t able to pump strongly enough to manage its workload.


A dry, hacking cough that doesn't go away

The cough is caused by fluid backing up and leaking into the lungs—because the heart can’t keep up with pumping the blood to the rest of the body.


Feeling tired

The limited blood supply is sent away from arm and leg muscles to supply the body’s main organs, like the heart and brain.


Trouble sleeping when you lie flat

Fluid backs up into the lungs because the heart can’t keep up with the blood supply.


Rapid weight gain (3 or more pounds in a day)

The heart can’t keep up with the incoming blood supply, so fluid backs up and collects in the tissue.

If you experience worsening symptoms, like shortness of breath or rapid weight gain, call your doctor. You may be retaining water, which can put more of a burden on your heart.

HF support is a click away

For more help recognizing and managing the signs of HF, register for the Keep It Pumping resource program, including your free Heart Failure Handbook.


How much do you really know about HF?

Take this quiz to find out.

1. Which of these are HF symptoms and which may be signs of aging?

Shortness of breath with everyday activities



Feeling tired



Swollen legs, feet, and ankles



2. Why weigh yourself every day if you're not on a diet?

Gaining weight could help your heart

It will help you avoid putting on weight

Gaining 3 or more pounds in a day may be a sign you're retaining more fluid

3. How many people over 40 in the United States can expect to develop HF in the course of their lifetimes?

1 in 5

1 in 12

1 in 30

4. Which of these may be a suitable activity for people with HF?



Cleaning the house

Walking briskly

5. What's the total amount of heart-healthy exercise the experts recommend in a week?

150 minutes

90 minutes

60 minutes

6. If your daily sodium intake is limited to 2,000 mg, how much salt is that?

Less than 1 teaspoon

3 teaspoons

2 teaspoons

How did you do?

0 correct

There's a lot to learn about HF, and you've come to the right place. Begin with the basic facts.

How did you do?

1-3 correct

Surprised by some answers? Make sure you know the signs of HF, and find out more about HF all through this site.

How did you do?

4-5 correct

You know a lot about HF. But do you know about making the change to a heart-healthy diet and regular activity?

How did you do?

6 correct

A perfect score—
you really know HF! Now make sure you're prepared for your next doctor's appointment.

Talk to your doctor about HF: a guide

talk to your doctor about heart failure

How do you make the most of your time with the doctor? Here’s a form to help guide the discussion of HF at your next appointment. And always make sure the doctor knows how involved you want to be in your treatment.

talk to your doctor about heart failure

Free Heart Failure

Get your free copy when you enroll in the Keep It Pumping support program. Sign up

The Heart

Track vital signs, link devices, manage treatment activities on your phone. Download

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