Cardiac insufficiency

Weakness of the heart muscle (cardiac insufficiency) can have many causes. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, fluid retention in the legs and a deterioration of physical performance can occur suddenly or gradually over a longer period of time.

Overview

Weakness of the heart muscle (cardiac insufficiency) can have many causes. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, fluid retention in the legs and a deterioration of physical performance can occur suddenly or gradually over a longer period of time. A healthy lifestyle with exercise, no smoking and a healthy diet can have a preventive effect.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

  • Shortness of breath, fast breathing
  • Coughing (mostly at night)
  • Weakness, deterioration of physical performance
  • Fluid retention in the legs (oedema)

Other symptoms

  • Increased urination at night
  • Elevated pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fluid in the abdomen (ascites)

Causes and treatment

Causes

Acute (develops within hours / days)
Chronic (develops slowly over months / years)

Classes of severity

  • NYHA stage 1
    • Cardiac insufficiency can be diagnosed with medical tests, but the person has no symptoms (yet).
  • NYHA stage 2
    • Mild symptoms during ordinary activity (e.g. feeling weak when climbing stairs)
  • NYHA stage 3
    • Marked limitation in activity due to symptoms (e.g. getting out of bed)
  • NYHA stage 4
    • Symptoms such as shortness of breath even while at rest

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • ECG
  • Heart ultrasound (echocardiogram)
  • Ergometry (cardiac stress test on a treadmill or stationary bicycle)
  • Blood test (“cardio levels”)
  • Chest x-ray
  • Cardio MRI (special magnetic resonance imaging of the heart)
Possible therapies
  • Treatment of an underlying cause (e.g. high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, etc.)
  • Medication (e.g. diuretic pills)
  • Bypass or stent operation for coronary artery sclerosis
  • Heart transplant (rarely)

What can I do myself?

  • Follow a healthy diet (e.g. Mediterranean diet)
  • Regular exercise
  • Reduce overweight
  • Stop smoking
  • Slightly elevate the head of the bed (or use extra pillows)

When to see a doctor?

  • Growing deterioration of physical performance
  • Growing shortness of breath
  • Fluid retention in the legs that doesn’t go away

Further information

Schweizerische Herzstiftung (Swiss Heart Foundation)
www.swissheart.ch

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

Mann liegt krank auf dem Sofa
Health in an app

Discover the Well app

Check symptoms, get tips on home remedies, arrange doctor's appointments, order medication and much more.