Symptom: Confusion

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2019

Is confusion a symptom of heart failure (HF)? Yes, it can be. Changes in mental status are often associated with aging like heart failure is. It is more common to associate confusion, a sense of disorientation, memory loss, impaired thinking and reasoning with neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Parkinson’s disease. Yet these changes in mental function are also considered symptoms of heart failure.1-2

Poor circulation

Poor circulation to the brain and an imbalance in body chemistry can be signs of advancing heart failure. If the brain does not get enough oxygen or sodium levels in the blood are altered, you may experience some of the following symptoms:2

  • Lightheaded - A sense of feeling dizzy or disoriented
  • Confusion - Being unable to think clearly or experiencing language or memory problems
  • Fainting – Passing out or losing consciousness

Heart failure describes the inability of the heart to function properly. As the heart muscle struggles to compensate for its decreased pumping ability, circulation can be affected. If the heart cannot carry enough oxygen throughout the body, a variety of symptoms develop.2

When the brain does not get enough oxygen-rich blood, mental functioning is affected. The early sense of feeling lightheaded or dizzy may be amongst the first signs of this. Lightheadedness can also be a side effect of some medications or overmedication.2-3 As heart failure progresses, it may impair a person’s ability to think clearly. This can affect your ability to work, drive, live independently, or communicate with others.2

Talk to your doctor

It is important to talk to your doctor about the symptoms you experience. They will want to know about the symptoms that have developed, when they started, and how long they last when they arise. This includes any changes in your medications, diet, sleep habits, head injuries, or other illnesses.3

People with advanced heart failure may be hospitalized for safety and medical management. If you experience any sudden mental changes, call your doctor right away.2

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