Community Shares: Most Bothersome Symptoms of Heart Failure

Living with a chronic illness like heart failure brings many struggles. The impact of symptoms on daily life is significant. It can be hard accepting and adjusting to the changes this diagnosis brings. Everyone is bothered by symptoms differently.

To learn more about the challenging symptoms of this condition, we turned to our community members. Recently, we asked followers of our Facebook page: “Fill in the blank: The heart failure symptom that bothers me the most is _____.”

Of the nearly 120 responses, the top 2 most bothersome symptoms were clearly shortness of breath and fatigue.

Shortness of breath

While everyone gets short of breath now and then, this symptom feels constant when it comes to heart failure. It is not limited to strenuous activity. This shortness of breath strikes when engaging in activities that are non-strenuous with a healthy heart. A few examples include walking across the room, taking a shower, folding laundry, or talking. It is one of your top symptoms because shortness of breath impacts so many activities.1

“Becoming totally winded after just walking across a room.”

“Shortness of breath. I want to do so much, but I hate that I can’t.”

“Gasping for every breath.”


The other most bothersome symptom many mentioned is fatigue. Fatigue is the overwhelming exhaustion and energy depletion that no amount of rest can solve.

Fatigue can come from the struggle of the heart to pump efficiently, resulting in not enough blood going to muscles and tissues. The body prioritizes the heart, brain, and kidneys at the expense of arms, legs, and less vital organs. Fatigue can also be a side effect of prescribed drugs for treatment. There was a lot of frustration at how drained you feel with heart failure.2,3

“The total lack of energy. And it has been 4 years!”

“Massive, unrelenting, increasing FATIGUE.”

“Being tired all the time, no energy sometimes.”

Living with uncertainty

Fear of the future

Many responses to the Facebook prompt also mentioned uncertainty as a bothersome and challenging aspect of this disease. Living with the aftermath of a heart failure diagnosis and a cardiac episode can create anxiety. The uncertainty and stress may cause you to feel frightened about the future. It can keep you from engaging in activities you once enjoyed for fear of sparking another episode.

Daily activities

Feeling some anxiety is expected following a heart failure diagnosis. Suppose anxiety begins to interfere with your ability to engage in any activity or severely impacts your day-to-day life. In that case, it is important to discuss it with your doctor. Your doctor can prescribe talk therapy and drugs to help you gain better anxiety management.4

“The uncertainty of the future.”

“The mental stress and depression of just not being the man I used to be is the hardest to accept.”

“Not knowing what the next day will bring.”

“The fear of it happening again.”

We appreciate everyone who engaged with the Facebook prompt and shared your most bothersome symptoms with heart failure. It is a struggle, but there is comfort in knowing many have these same challenges.

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