Cardiac insufficiency: What are the signs?

Cardiac insufficiency or heart failure stems from the inability of the heart to drive enough blood throughout the body.

The condition can affect both young and old individuals and even the result of a hereditary anomaly, lifestyle or disease. Cardiac insufficiency occurs both as an acute and chronic ailment which can be managed in various ways. Being familiar with the indications can help in preventing the acute cases from deteriorating to chronic conditions.

Fluid retention

The abrupt weight gain or swelling of the feet, hands and legs are indications of cardiac insufficiency. During assessment, a finger is pressed against the front of the lower calf and held for 5 seconds. In case the fingerprint leaves a dent before the skin rebounds, it indicates severe edema. If the skin simply blanches without any indentation, the edema is relatively mild.


One of the usual signs of cardiac insufficiency is shortness of breath.

Cardiac insufficiency leads to the development of edema via its incapability to propel fluid throughout the body and it builds up in the tissues. The heart must strain to eliminate the wastes, but if cardiac insufficiency is present, it could not do this function. Unfortunately, the heart does not know that it could not do this and continues to strain. The harder it strains, the feebler it becomes. This results to more buildup of fluid and the edema becomes worse. The extremities become severely engorged with fluid that the skin begins to weep and fluids drip from the body.

Shortness of breath

One of the usual signs of cardiac insufficiency is shortness of breath. This can occur during exertion or while at rest. The episodes are likely to increase over time until there is a need for supplemental oxygen.

Heart arrhythmias

As the heart tries to eliminate the excess fluid volume, it beats rapidly which leads to an erratic heartbeat.

A rapid heart rate or tachycardia is defined as having more than 100 beats in a minute. With the buildup of fluid, an erratic rhythm along with tachycardia can also develop. These arrhythmias can be noticed as palpitations. Generally, medications or simple procedures can restore the normal sinus rhythm.

Weakness and fatigue

An individual with cardiac insufficiency quickly tires. Both fatigue and weakness that arises after waking is not normal. The body must feel rested after 8-10 hours of sleep. An individual with the condition suffers from constant fatigue regardless of the length of rest he/she had since the heart does not completely perfuses the body with oxygen. Additionally, the continuous fatigue also affects the quality of life.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on cardiac insufficiency is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs, register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.


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