1-05-2021 / Heart & Vascular

Heart Failure - Symptoms, Risk Factors and Prevention

Heart failure is not something that can be overlooked and medication is not an option to restore the normal functioning of a failing heart. That is why it is best to know how to prevent heart failure and follow recommendations from experts.

Heart Failure - Symptoms, Risk Factors and Prevention
Mazia AhmedMazia Ahmed
Mazia Ahmed
MSc Nutrition Science, Ph.D. Scholar
Medically Cited
Fact Checked

Table of Content


You cannot deny that modern life is not very heart-friendly. With a host of fast foods to eat, late nights, alcohol habits, we often forget about the health of our heart. That is why the rate of heart failure is very high nowadays. The ways to prevent heart failure are not complex. Discipline is the key for a lot of them.

Cardiovascular disease Graph

What is Heart Failure (HF)?

HF is a chronic issue. The heart, out of less maintenance and abuse, progressively starts to decline in its performance. Slowly it becomes unable to deliver sufficient blood to the body. As a result, the body does not get the necessary oxygen and blood to function normally. Initially, it tries to compensate for the shortage by overworking.

To provide organs and body muscles with their required supply, the heart undergoes some changes. These changes include:

  • Stretching: At this stage, the heart takes extra workload and stretches intensely to pump extra blood. If it is continued, this extra stretching causes heart enlargement. It becomes bigger than its regular size.

  • Gain more muscles: Because of its enlargement, the heart cells responsible for its contraction get bigger.

  • Faster beating: the more blood it needs to supply, the more it pumps. It reaches and transgresses the limit of safety soon.

Along with the heart, the body also makes up to get along with the condition. It narrows down all the blood vessels to increase blood pressure. Then, it stops providing blood to the organs it feels are less important.

It's no wonder that these processes lead the entire body to an intensive condition. The time comes when the heart and the body can't make these anymore, and their collaboration works no longer. It evokes total system failure.

Infographic Heart Diseases

6 Major Symptoms of Heart Failure

The vigorous compensation attempt made by both the heart and the body most of the time makes it too late for the body to show warning signs for a potential threat. However, symptoms of heart failure, when it starts to show up, might not be a sign of ultimate danger. If you notice two or more of these signs in you, consulting a doctor should be the best idea.

1. Tiredness and Fatigue: You will feel tired most of the time. Even everyday activities like climbing stairs, shopping, carrying something, walking will feel exhaustive.

2. Shortness of Breath: Due to the lack of oxygen supply, the body will require it all the time. Even long periods of sleep can't remove fatigue. You will feel breathlessness while sleeping and during other activities associated with physical movement. You will find it hard to breathe while lying flat. To catch the breath, you have to prop up your head and lean your upper body on any support. Walking up suddenly out of breath and feeling restless and anxious will be more frequent.

Symptoms of Cardiac Problem

3. Edema: It is swelling of different body parts due to excessive build-up of fluid in different tissues. It can happen to several parts of the body. 

4. Wheezing and Coughing: Lungs will build up extra fluids, which results in continuous coughing. Sometimes pink or white mucus will come out with coughing.

5. Dizziness, Memory loss, Confusion: A feeling of disorientation and difficulty to reach a decision could arise.  Most of the time, relatives or closest people notice such behavior.

6. Nausea and Lack of Appetite: As the digestive system falls victim to a lack of blood supply. It causes digestion problems. A feeling of sickness is felt, and the stomach feels full all the time.

4 Uncontrollable Risk Factors of Heart Failure

What makes heart failure one of the deadliest diseases globally is that its cure can be futile. Because not all damages a heart takes are replaceable. Numerous factors are liable to raise the risk of an HF. They are called the Risk Factors. Another aspect that makes HF dangerous is that not all these risk factors are controllable. They do not have any prevention or cure. A person can only maintain their way of life to cope with these uncontrollable factors.

1. Age: Our hearts get more vulnerable to diseases as we grow older. According to the specialists, men over 45 years and women over 55 years are prone to heart disorders.

2. Gender: Some factors play differently for a man and a woman. Like estrogen, a hormone secreted from ovaries provides women with practicing some extent of protection against heart diseases. On the contrary, diabetes imposes more risk of HF on women than on men.

3. Ethnicity: Some races naturally have more exposure to risks. Like, East Asians suffer from heart diseases more than south Asians.

4. Ancestors: It's proven that a person with a close relative who suffered from HF tends to share the same fate.

7 Effective Ways to Prevent Heart Failure

Despite all, what matters most is there are still some options that allow people to prevent heart failure.

1. Controlling Blood Pressure and Diabetes

The biggest risk factor for HF is having high blood pressure. It is highly advisable to check blood pressure often. If detected, it should be taken under control following a doctor's directive. Other than this, diabetes worsens the severity of heart diseases. The extra sugar in the blood damages the blood vessels. It also affects nerves responsible for controlling heart movements and activities. Therefore, it's best to check diabetes regularly. 

2. Maintaining a Healthy Diet

Obesity is another major trigger for heart disease. Healthy and non-fat foods are the best medicine for heart disease. Fats worsen the blood flow by contracting the space of an artery, thereby triggering diabetes and high blood pressure

Heart Healthy foods: Avocado, Whole Grains, Seeds and Berries

3. Foods to Prevent Heart Failure

To compensate for cholesterol-rich foods, you can eat heart-friendly foods like fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and fish. 

Also Read: 12 Diet Foods You Should Eat for a Healthy Heart

4. Exercising Regularly

Regular exercises can benefit the heart in many ways. It will help you maintain enough circulation of blood and strengthen the heart muscles. With habituating daily workouts, you will also be able to keep yourself from obesity. The extra calories and cholesterol-burn will manifest better health and lower HF risk.

5. Quitting Smoke and Alcohol

Both alcohol and cigarettes raise blood pressure. Thus, they escalated the risk of stroke and heart attack. It would be best to quit alcohol and smoke. If you are a chain smoker or a heavy drinker, try to lower the number of doses slowly. The less you take these poisons, the more is the chance for you to be in sound health.

6. Taming Life Stresses

Chronic stress causes the heart to pump faster, resulting in excessive blood pressure. It damages the inner walls of the artery. Learning to manage stress will improve not only the way of your life but also your health condition. Meditation and practicing deep breathing every day while sitting or lying somewhere serene and silent have proven efficacy in assuaging stress and hypertension.

7. Getting Enough Sleep

Not sleeping enough causes obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It also reduces stamina. All these are severely injurious to the heart. To avoid such risks, you must sleep 7 to 9 hours every night. Moreover, If you are suffering from any kind of insomnia or sleep depreciation, you should consider consulting with your doctor.

Word of Wisdom

The best way to prevent heart failure is to discipline your way of life most healthily. Supply adequate nutrition to the body parts by taking a balanced diet, keeping those parts active by daily exercising, keeping a calm mind, leaving all the bad habits, and getting enough sleep. Your heart will stay healthy, and so will you.


John Hopkins Medicine


National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

FAQ on Heart Failure

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