Symptoms of Heart Failure

Awareness of heart failure symptoms is dangerously low1.

Seeing the signs

Heart failure symptoms can be difficult to spot. This is because they could signify the presence of other conditions not directly related to heart failure, or merely be discounted and attributed to getting older or being out of shape. In fact, a recent survey commissioned by AstraZeneca showed that few people can identify the most common symptoms of heart failure.1

Of those surveyed in our recent study on heart failure awareness,

Awareness of the 3 main symptoms is low

23% Shortness of breath when resting or being active

40% Feeling unusually tired or weak

25% Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or the small of the back

Symptoms can include2,3:

Shortness of breath – this can occur even when not doing strenuous activities and may even be worse when lying down

Swollen ankles, legs, or abdomen – caused by a build-up of fluid
Tiredness or fatigue – feeling tired most of the time and finding exercise and physical activities exhausting

Other, less common symptoms may include2,3:
Rapid or irregular heart rate
Lack of appetite and nausea
Persistent coughing or wheezing
Difficulty concentrating or confusion

So, because symptoms may have multiple possible sources, the best thing to do if you experience any, or especially a combination of these symptoms, is to go and have a chat with a doctor so they can assess your symptoms, family history and possibly undergo a few tests to see if you are at risk.

Know what to look out for with the symptoms of heart failure

Take our symptoms quiz


  1. AstraZeneca PLP. Data on File. ID: REF – 74964. March 2020
  2. NHS. Symptoms of heart failure. Available online at: Last accessed August 25 2020
  3. Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of Heart Failure. Available online at: syc-20373142. Last accessed August 25 2020
11 February 2021

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