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Symptoms of Heart Failure in Women

Heart failure claims the lives of about 300,000 people every year in the United States. Although you may think of heart failure as a condition that is more likely to affect men than women, about 62 percent of people who die from heart failure each year are women, according to the Women’s Heart Foundation. If you have any signs of heart failure, get medical attention immediately.

What Is Heart Failure?

If you receive a diagnosis of heart failure, it does not mean you will die right away or that your heart has stopped. When a woman has heart failure, her heart is unable to pump blood through her body as effectively as it once could. Her body doesn’t get the nutrients or oxygen it needs from the blood, leading to many of the symptoms. High blood pressure and narrow, hardened arteries can contribute to the weakening of your heart and lead to heart failure.

Symptoms Common in Women

While both men and women can display the same symptoms of heart failure, a few symptoms are more likely to occur in women than in men. Women with heart failure are likely to have swelling, or edema, in the ankles. The kidneys respond to the reduction in blood flow by retaining water, which leads to swelling. Women are also more likely to experience congestion in the lungs during heart failure, which causes them to feel short of breath and to struggle with physical activity.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms of heart failure that can appear in a woman include swelling in the stomach area from fluid buildup. She may feel full or bloated and may not want to eat. Nausea is another frequent symptom. She may also feel tired or grow tired easily since blood doesn’t flow as easily to her internal organs or muscles. These symptoms can appear suddenly in an acute case of heart failure or may be ongoing if she suffers from chronic heart failure.


The common causes of heart failure differ between women and men. Men are more likely to have heart failure after a heart attack, while women are more likely to suffer heart failure due to high blood pressure, a valve problem or diabetes. Some causes of heart failure are specific to women, such as peripartum cardiomyopathy, which occurs after pregnancy or during the final month. Women who have undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer may develop heart failure from drug toxicity.

Dealing With Heart Failure

Women who have heart failure are likely to survive longer than men, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Unfortunately, women tend to display more symptoms than men, which can interfere with their day-to-day lives. If you have heart failure, it’s important that you see your doctor often to manage your symptoms and monitor your disease. You may wish to make several changes to your habits and lifestyle to help manage your disease, such as eating a healthy diet low in sodium and cholesterol, not smoking and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink.

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