Main Article on Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Question: What risk factors do you have for CHF, and what steps are you taking to minimize them? Submit Your Comment Comment from: Nina H, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: August 09 I was 33 and pregnant with my 3rd child. From 20 weeks I had trouble breathing, made numerous visits to my general physician (GP) and they just said it was my asthma. I was gasping for breath just brushing my hair. My congestive heart failure (CHF) was found by chance at 36 weeks pregnant. My ejection fraction was 20 percent. After a 3 week hospital stay, I was discharged with a bunch of medicines. I recovered, with my ejection fraction rising to 56 percent but after weaning off medicines, it declined to 35 percent. Hoping to improve on medicines. Peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM)! Comment from: chf, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: March 10 I recently got out of the hospital diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I am devastated. I am on oxygen full time and life as I knew it is over. My belly kept swelling bigger and bigger. I had a chronic cough. Most importantly, I couldn't breathe. My son took me to the hospital where I remained a week and a half. Nobody told me I had congestive heart failure, nobody told me what it meant and how it would impact my life. This whole experience has left me both angry and depressed. I want my life back. Comment from: Anne, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: January 06 My symptoms of congestive heart failure were shortness of breath, slowness in walking, and having to lie down several times a day. Comment from: Michigan man, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: April 06 I was on my third night of being up right in the chair, afraid to fall asleep because I could not catch my breath lying flat. I did go to the emergency room (ER) and they checked me right in and took chest x-ray and EKG right away and found congestive heart failure. Later, up in my room they got everything under control and I could breathe again. After 4 days they had me ready to go home with my first set of pills. After 90 days of pills I still could not stand up more than 20 minutes, and the heart doctor wanted to do a procedure to correct the atrial fibrillation. Wow, what a difference after the electrical cardioversion! It was all done very quickly, like in 3 hours I was on the way home 3 days later, one heart beat and much stronger overall. I still have to watch pressure and eat pills for breakfast but I can stand up and breathe again. Best would be to go to the ER, they have people there to help you, not the general doctor, and he is there to maintain you. Go with the ER doctor's plans and follow his advice and you too can live to breathe the fresh air. Comment from: rock&hardplace, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: December 02 I guess I have borderline CHF. I was hospitalized with atrial fibrillation in August. Up to then I had only had transient episodes of tachycardia. Lately I've been having trouble falling asleep - I will almost be asleep when I start up with a feeling of breathlessness. If I can get through the falling asleep stage, I seem not to have sleep apnea. It takes some courage though, to take the leap to sleep! Last weekend I was on my feet all day and had major swelling in my feet and lower legs. Going up stairs leaves me breathing hard. My BNP test just came back at 249. Normal is 100; 300 is bad. My cardiologist is recommending cardioversion. At first I didn't like the idea but with the possibility of CHF it starts to seem more attractive. If I can correct of the A fib the CHF should clear up. I am 67 and otherwise in good health, active and a healthy lifestyle. I do have chronic Lyme disease, though, kept in check by maintenance antibiotics. Comment from: Kathy , 55-64 Male (Caregiver) Published: June 14 My boyfriend has congested heart failure (CHF) and has been bedridden for years. Comment from: Michelle, 45-54 Male (Caregiver) Published: January 21 My husband was diagnosed with CHF (congestive heart failure) in August 2019 at age 53… yes 53! I previously worked 3 years for a cardiologist and know heart conditions and what to expect for a future, but I never saw this coming. Once a strong built construction superintendent, he's now a depressed, sick man who refused to slow down, but as much as I hate him pushing himself too hard knowing the end results, I have to step back and let him 'live each day as if it's his last' because I love him. Comment from: Maury, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: July 16 I passed a difficult stress test and had a heart catheterization. No heart problems. Yet when I walk fast, I get those sensations like congestive heart failure (CHF). Wonder if the CPAP I started using 2 years ago be the problem. Maybe the CPAP is irritating my chest area. Comment from: Brittney A, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: July 23 I am 32, and diagnosed in 2013 with CHF (congestive heart failure). Currently my legs and feet are so swollen that I can hardly lift them. I am having difficulty breathing and my stomach is even swollen. I am wanting to sleep all the time and even though I feel hungry I feel I have no room in my stomach. Taking my Lasix and only urinating 2 or 3 times daily. I wonder if I should get checked out. SLIDESHOW Heart Disease: Symptoms, Signs, and Causes See Slideshow Published: August 27 The 1st indication I had that I was experiencing CHF was severe loss of energy. A simple walk up a flight of stairs, and I was huffing and puffing, practically gasping for air. That’s when a friend who happens to be a para medic, pointed out to me that my ankles were unusually swollen. I passed the lack of energy off on the fact that I was about 35 to 40 lbs. overweight and did not exercise. I was what you could call a lazy couch potato. I smoke about a pack of cigarettes a day, and although I don't drink anymore; I went through about 12 to 15 years as a very serious alcoholic. (1 QUART of Jack Daniels per day plus 12 to 24 beers). It was when my testicles got swollen to the size of a couple of grapefruits, that I went to the ER. The diagnosis was Congestive Heart Failure. I've been hospitalized 3 times since that fateful day, most recently for an infection on my lower leg that oral antibiotics would not cure. I take a lot of diuretics and am on a strict diet with my goal being to loose 40 lbs. I still smoke cigarettes, but have cut down substantially. The doctors tell me I won't die, THIS TIME! Published: August 27 I have been very recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure. My signs and symptoms mainly consisted of shortness of breath, but it was more like gasping for air, and there was a lot of wheezing. Turns out it wasn't wheezing at all, but fluid in my lungs. Saw my doctor and she treated me for what she believed was either asthma and/or emphysema. When I demanded a chest x ray after 3 weeks of this, I was told to go to the ER, where they did a chest x ray and discovered fluids in my lungs. The next few days in the hospital required many tests such as more chest x rays, an echocardiogram, EKGs, and a CT scan with and without contrast. After 2 days on Lasix and steroids, I apparently released 10 lbs of fluids in my lungs, 10 lbs! More than a gallon of water. I am feeling much better breathing wise, but I have a long road ahead of me. My next step is a heart catheterization. Comment from: ExSmokersSon, 55-64 Male (Caregiver) Published: May 11 Smoking does not help heart problem! My mother had COPD and she smoked for quite some time but quit way back in 1975. She went on oxygen in 2009 and she died in 2009! She ended up with a pacemaker for congestive heart failure (CHF) and took it with her! Comment from: Hanging, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: February 21 I suffer from atrial fibrillation, cancer and other problems. I have a tough time doing anything without having problems breathing. I have a large insurance policy and want to take care of my wife so taking my life is on my mind. Comment from: cookie, Female (Patient) Published: February 26 My legs and ankles swell and ache at rest, so that I have to get up and walk around for a while. I have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Comment from: msut14, 65-74 Male (Caregiver) Published: January 28 My father has CHF and has now gotten his heart rate under control. However one problem that still exists is the terrible swelling of his lower legs, causing itching, massive skin flaking, bleeding, 'weeping' and a terrible smell. We have seen dermatologists, foot care and wound care specialists, but cannot get to the root cause of how to normalize his legs. We can get the legs to stop flaking/weeping but only for very short time. Comment from: motherofthree, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 13 I have recently been told that I have 50-60% blockage in both carotid arteries. I am having a lot of pain and swelling in my left leg. Comment from: Aedwin, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: December 16 I was 26 when I developed congestive heart failure due to my pregnancy with my first and only child. My ejection fraction was 21. I was diagnosed after having shortness of breath, increased pulse greater than100 bpm at rest, and an increased blood pressure. I got a chest CT that showed fluid in the lungs. They did series of tests. My father and mother both had heart attacks before the age of forty. Comment from: jimdgop, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: February 24 I was just diagnosed this week. On Thursday morning I couldn't catch my breath. The symptoms went away and then came back in 10 minutes. After that happened three times in less than 30 minutes, I called 911. The paramedics hit me like nothing I ever saw before and rushed me to the hospital. In the ER I had at least a dozen people working on me, jamming IV lines everywhere they could. I was admitted to a room and watched very closely. The heart surgeon came to my room and told me he had to do a cardiac catheter immediately. I fought him about it a lot but eventually agreed. He told me that I would have to be flat on my back for up to an hour and I told him I couldn't deal with that. He figured out another way to go, knocked me out and went in through my wrist. I had one stent inserted. I guess it wasn't too extreme. I got out of the hospital the next day and while I'm still a bit weak, I have no restrictions and can do whatever I want within reason. I will have to change my diet and take a few classes in how to cook for and take care of myself, but it's better than the alternative. The ER doctor later came to my room to check on me and told me that I was circling the drain. Had I been 10 minutes later, I wouldn't have been telling you this. QUESTION In the U.S., 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. See Answer Comment from: Robert, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: July 12 I've had cardiomyopathy for 15 years with associated heart failure. Symptoms were cough, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeats. It has been manageable up until fairly recently when I started retaining a lot of fluid. My heart became very weak but after ultrafiltration and increased diuretics things appear to be subsiding and I feel much better. Comment from: Kats, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: February 20 I was being treated for moderate asthma, when it worsened despite new medications. In the Doctors office, my pulmonary function was down to 38%. They sent me down to the ER, it was congestive heart failure. I have had many issues with my heart since 1998 including electrical issues that were ablated twice. Many different types of arrhythmia as well. Comment from: ceciliarenee, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 21 The very first symptom was shortness of breath and generalized weakness. Then the weight gain started at about 7 lbs a month for 3 months. Then a rapid weight gain of 22 lbs in 3 weeks. I went from 114 to 159 lbs in 5 months! No one took it seriously until I could not get my shoes on and the skin was splitting from the edema toes to knees. I developed severe shortness of breath, continuous coughing, 02 sat of 78 and x-ray showed lung congestion. I would wake up gasping for air. I finally demanded that something be done and it was then told to me it was acute congestive heart failure. I was hospitalized for 1 week. From the very first symptoms of shortness of breath to increasing weakness I could not get a doctor to take me seriously. Not until exacerbation was spinning out of control. Comment from: Granny Dee, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: October 09 Congestive heart failure was preceded by years of atrial fibrillation. Symptoms were cough, and a "wheezing" sound caused by fluid building up in lungs, feeling very tired plus I was also sleeping 12 or more hours. I have had bronchitis so I thought that was it, but the pulmonary doctor said I did have COPD from smoking, although she thought the main issue was CHF. The heart doctors confirmed it, and I was on Lisinopril and Warfarin. Comment from: olive, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: May 01 I experienced shortness of breath, extreme fluid retention, and a feeling that I could not take enough air. I also had a heavy feeling in my chest and arm. Comment from: GailTD, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: January 30 I have had foot and ankle swelling for many years. Circulatory problems gradually I started having shortness of breath and not being able to breathe when lying down. And shortness of breath and not being able to get my breath back during walking. Diagnosis cardiomyopathy ejection fraction 20%. Comment from: Martha, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 26 I'm 45. There are days I can't take a deep breath. I have tricuspid and mitral valve malfunctions. I also finally have my blood pressure under control. It used to range 180/110. I have not had a heart attack. I'm on Linosopril and a diuretic. So far my heart rate is much lower. My blood pressure is normal. I still get fluid in my lungs but it's not as bad. Comment from: 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: January 24 I am 70 years old and have a stent. I have had symptoms of CHF for about five years now, looking back on my shortness of breath especially when swimming. I injured my shoulder and had rotator cuff surgery. The swimming is not so sweet any more. I have had severe breathing problems after back surgery after a bone graft failed. I did not have any knowledge of Congestive heart failure of course before my back surgery. It has been difficult to know just how to digest this very recent diagnosis. There is just not a straight forward presentation of my presenting symptoms at this time. Comment from: chip reuter, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: November 08 Congestive heart failure was preceded by years of hypothyroidism. Initial symptoms were cough, and a "wheezing" sound caused by fluid building up in lungs. I also had the need for sleeping 12 or more hours. Comment from: [email protected], 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: September 09 Actually, the only symptom I had to begin with was a shortness of breath. I noticed this mostly climbing stairs or even walking, and then it started even when I was sitting still. I could see my heart beating and felt that was strange. As it progressed in about a week I found I couldn't breathe without difficulty even if I was sitting still. There was no pain at all. Also, I found I couldn't walk too well for any distance due to shortness of breath. I am not now, nor have ever been a smoker. Heart problems run in my family but I thought I'd never have any because I led a healthy lifestyle. I was wrong. Comment from: germanjohnson, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: June 01 I got off my 12 hour night shift on a Saturday in June 2009.I had to go by the bank before going home. I finished my business and lit a cigarette as I got into my truck to go home. I decided to have breakfast before going home, so I stopped by a fast food restaurant, parked and sat there finishing my cigarette, before going in. I awoke on Tuesday in the CCU of an area hospital. According to the information I was able to collect, I was "dead" when the EMT's arrived. They could not get me to respond, so they rushed me to a local hospital, where cardiologists got me stabilized to send me to the area heart center 30 miles away. During the trip, I went out again. Upon arrival, emergency surgery was done. I had a 97% blockage of the coronary artery. I had no pain or symptoms, other than being tired which I attributed to working all night. Comment from: Tiffany, 35-44 Male (Caregiver) Published: April 12 My husband is 41, was diagnosed with non-ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy at age 33. I'm now sitting here typing this while I sit at his bedside. He was stable for 8 years, and active with some fatigue, until 2 months ago. He was dramatically tired, experiencing mild activity, abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, and mild swelling in his ankles. He's had two bouts of chest pain in the past almost two weeks. My biggest fear has always been that because he was so well compensated for so many years, he would decompensate rapidly...too rapidly for a heart transplant. And now that fear seems to be coming true. . Comment from: KJ, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: March 22 I first experienced congestive heart failure in Jan. 2008. The symptoms were mainly shortness of breath, particularly in the middle of the night. Being a heavy smoker for many years, I thought it was a lung problem such as emphysema or COPD. Then I noticed my ankles were swollen which ultimately led to the diagnosis of CHF. They did a heart cath and were planning to put in some stents. Then they realized that my heart was so plugged up I would need open heart surgery. So they did five (5) bypasses to try to get some blood pumping. As it turned out, the whole back-side of my heart muscle was virtually dead and even now it pumps at about 25-30% of what it should be. My breathing is better but I usually have zero energy. Walking up one flight of stairs is a real task. The good news is I finally quit smoking. They put me on Chantix which actually worked! Comment from: Rochelle, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: March 10 I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in September of 2009. I am a 41 year old female who has abused drugs my whole life. On the 21st of September 2009 when the swelling in my legs would not go down a friend of mine decided for me that it was time to go to the ER. I had no pain, so I was fighting it all the way down there. After all the test results came back, the ER doctor explained to me that my many years of drug abuse had finally caught up to me and my heart was failing. Since then I have been taking my medication and potassium as prescribed. I now have a new addiction and she the best puppy in the world! Comment from: bev, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: December 11 dry cough can't sleep feel faint holding my fluid gaining weight short of breath feet legs ankles and hands swelling Comment from: Mam-ma 62, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 16 I was just diagnosed with diastolic congestive heart failure. My symptoms presented like the flu or bronchitis, or pneumonia. By the time I went to the doctor, I did not think I was that bad. He sent me to the ER and I still did not have regular symptoms. Then when my lab work came back a number in my blood that was to be between 45-55 was 1200. So they kept me for awhile. I am a 62 years old and I have had four heart attacks, each one was different symptoms – none of which were the symptoms they tell you to look out for. I didn’t even know I had a heart attack until I also had a stroke. Comment from: Ian, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: October 07 I was first diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 1984. This is a genetic condition which thickens the walls of the heart. I was prone to random fainting attacks and was proscribed beta blockers. About 4 years ago as the result of research I was given a pace maker to regulate and maintain a steady heartbeat. This resolved the fainting attacks. In July 2009 whilst on a holiday to Florida I experienced severe breathing problems, particularly at night in bed. Went to local hospital where I was diagnosed with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. I am currently undergoing treatment as an out-patient. I feel generally lethargic and tired and feel unable to exercise although light exercise has been recommended. Comment from: dances2, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: October 07 I have emphysema (COPD) and was vacationing in Colorado at 8500 feet. It’s pretty high altitude, but I had vacationed there for 9 years. This visit, though, I couldn't catch my breath, even on flat ground, so went on oxygen therapy. Even with the oxygen, I felt weak, fatigued, and sweaty. And what really convinced me to fly back to Maine was the feeling like I was getting bad bronchitis - lots of coughing and phlegm-without being "sick". Once home, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and placed on diuretics and different blood pressure medicine. Comment from: Scorpio, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: December 09 On March 15, 2006 I awoke at 3:00a.m. To use the bathroom and I had felt like someone hit me on the shoulder blade. By the grace Of God my wife was up next thing I know I’m staring at the ceiling and have lost all bodily functions on the bathroom floor. Ambulance was called and determined that I in fact had a Heart Attack. Here I am 43 year old Caucasian male. I work 65 to 70 hours a week and smoke like a train w/ occasional drink and Diagnosed w/ Sleep Apnea. And I’ve just had a Heart Attack. My God!!!!!! Angioplasty was performed blockage dealt w/stents. Here I am 4 years later; quit smoking only 3 months ago. Have had several more stents put in 8 total. And now I’m dealing w/The not so early stage of Congestive Heart Failure.