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5 Tips For When To Seek Help For Heart Failure

So, you have a diagnosis of heart failure. You’re meeting with your doctor on a regular basis and are being compliant with your treatment regimen.

All told, your heart failure is controlled and you are living well despite your diagnosis. Still, there may come a time when you should seek medical attention. So, here are 5 tips for when to seek help for heart failure.

When experiencing severe symptoms

You are experiencing shortness of breath. You are coughing up pink frothy secretions. You are unable to lie back and have to sit up to breathe. You are talking in short-choppy sentences. You are sweaty and anxious. You are experiencing chest pain or tightness.

These are all symptoms of acute (it’s happening now) heart failure. Another term is congestive heart failure (CHF). These are symptoms you should seek help for right away. Call 911.1

When experiencing early warning symptoms

Sometimes acute heart failure can happen in a flash. If it does, that’s your cue to call 911 right as noted above. However, usually, symptoms occur gradually. Usually, symptoms occur long before an acute flare-up occurs. If you are able to spot these symptoms early, actions can prevent a full-blown flare-up.

These early symptoms are called early warning symptoms. Ones to watch out for are shortness of breath (can’t catch your breath) when walking about, new onset of coughing, new or worsening feet or ankle edema, weight gain, audible wheeze, fatigue, anxiety, chest pain or tightness, irregular heartbeat, or rapid heartbeat. If you experience any of these, you should call your doctor.1-2

If you even think you need help

“I’m not feeling good. Should I seek help?” If you even think this, you ought to just go in right now. If you’re uncomfortable and this is causing you to stress, it’s time to seek help. At the very least, call your doctor and he or she can help you decide what to do.

Someone else tells you to seek help

If someone else says you don’t look so good, it’s probably time to seek help. What you feel are called symptoms. What others can see are called signs. There are lots of signs others might spot. One is you resting more than usual. Or you not being quite yourself. Others can definitely hear coughing. They can see if you’re leaning on things to breathe, or resting lots when exerting yourself to catch your breath. If your oxygen is low, your skin might look pale or bluish.

So, others can spot that something is wrong with you. And sometimes they spot it even before you realize it’s going on. Another good example is the swelling of the lower extremities. Others may spot this before you do So, it’s a great idea to listen to others. When they request you seek help, it’s probably time to do just that.

You are unable to do what you usually do

You are too winded or too tired to walk to the kitchen. You feel like all you want to do is sit in your recliner. You don’t have an appetite so you don’t feel like eating. Some people have trouble doing simple things, such as brushing your teeth or combing your hair. These are things that you can spot in yourself. But they are also things others around you may spot too. These are signs you ought to seek medical attention.

The sooner the better

It’s easy for me to give you these tips. I give them based on my own experience as a respiratory therapist. I have seen people get really sick with heart failure and oftentimes they tell me, “Gosh! If I had only sought help earlier maybe I wouldn’t have gotten so bad.” There is truth to that. I know it’s not easy to decide to seek help. But, the sooner you seek help the easier it is to get you feeling better and back to your home.

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