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When a cough isn’t a cough: Signs and symptoms of heart failure

Residents of North Adams, Massachusetts, rely on their doctors to provide them with the right diagnoses and treatments. However, when symptoms are low-level or do not seem all that troubling, a doctor may dismiss them as nothing to worry about. At first, the symptoms of heart failure might not seem like a big deal, but failure by a medical professional to diagnose heart problems leads to complications down the road. Here are a few signs that you should talk to your doctor about heart failure.

The American Heart Association lists multiple warning signs of heart failure. Respiratory issues top the symptom list and include coughing, shortness of breath or wheezing that persists over a long period of time. A more immediately troubling sign is an increase in heart rate. Other symptoms include the following mental, behavioral and physiological changes:

  • Decreased cognitive ability
  • Elevated levels of fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diminished appetite
  • Edema (that is, a “buildup of excess fluid in body tissues”)

The AHA notes that it is worthwhile to make regular visits to your physician regardless of whether these symptoms sound familiar.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, family history is particularly important in determining whether you are at risk for heart failure. Tell your doctor if you or other members of your family have experienced heart failure or its symptoms or have been diagnosed with any of the conditions that may lead to heart failure, including diabetes, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure.

The NHLBI notes that when people obtain a diagnosis of heart failure and seek treatment as soon as possible, they are more likely to continue living active, healthy lives. If your doctor suspects that you are at risk for heart failure, he or she will probably conduct a physical exam. Based on the results of the exam, your physician may recommend testing; diagnosis often requires more than one test.

Undiagnosed heart failure can have a significant impact on your quality of life, so you should talk with your doctor if you have any concerns. It’s important to work closely with your health care provider to ensure you receive the best possible treatment.



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