Breathing difficulty and decreased performance may indicate a weak heart

Heart failure needs to be recognized early

Difficulty breathing and decreased performance may indicate heart failure. It is important to take these symptoms seriously and see a doctor, because if left untreated, heart failure can lead to serious damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, and muscles.

Shortness of breath and reduced performance may indicate that the affected person is suffering from heart failure, warns the German Heart Foundation in a current press release. Medical help is urgently needed here.

How does heart failure develop?

The human heart pumps five to six liters of blood per minute through the body, which supplies the organs with oxygen and nutrients. Damage to the heart muscle, for example from a heart attack or untreated high blood pressure, causes it to lose its pumping power and the result can be chronic heart failure (heart failure).

Consequences of heart failure

Heart failure has negative effects on the heart and other organs. If heart failure is more advanced, it can lead to heart failure or even sudden cardiac death. In Germany, around 465,000 cases of derailed heart failure are admitted to clinics each year. About 40,000 of these cases are fatal, experts report.

Relationship between heart failure and shortness of breath

“The problem with heart failure is that it usually starts with shortness of breath and decreased performance. The symptoms can be unspectacular, ”reports Professor Dr. med. Thomas Voigtländer of the German Heart Foundation in a press release.

Unfortunately, these diffuse key symptoms cannot always be attributed to the heart. This increases the risk that older people will attribute symptoms to their advanced age, accept their consent and not see a doctor. If you suffer from shortness of breath, medical advice should be sought immediately in order to treat any heart failure and its causes, advises Voigtländer.

Treatment of heart failure must be well coordinated

Heart failure is a complex disease process for medical personnel and those affected. Drug treatment, surgeries and surgeries, and lifestyle changes need to be well coordinated.

Main causes of heart failure

The most important causes of heart failure are coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. About 70% of heart failure cases are due to these diseases. It becomes especially dangerous when coronary heart disease and high blood pressure occur along with diabetes, experts report.

Defective heart valves, atrial fibrillation, congenital heart defects, inflammatory heart disease (myocarditis), or alcohol and drug abuse are responsible for about 20-30% of heart failure cases.

Sick people must work actively

For the treatment of heart failure, the active cooperation of the affected person is very important so that the heart disease does not worsen. A so-called disease derailment occurs when drugs are not taken, dosed incorrectly, or combined. Lifestyle also has an influence. Body weight in particular plays an important role.

How can an increased risk of heart failure be identified at an early stage? (Image: comzeal /

What should you watch out for when you have a weak heart?

Due to the use of diuretics, people with heart failure should avoid excessive salt intake and large amounts of fluids. In addition, overloading the weakened heart due to bacterial or viral infection should be avoided, experts say.

Flu vaccination is important

Covid-19 disease can lead to severe disease outcomes in heart patients, which currently makes influenza vaccination even more important, according to the German Heart Foundation. Heart patients are therefore advised to be vaccinated against influenza and pneumococci.

The underlying diseases must be treated

“The best strategy with which we can prevent the worsening of heart failure and the diseases that accompany it such as kidney dysfunction and respiratory disease is to treat the underlying disease and its damaging effects on the heart muscle” , emphasizes Voigtländer.

Physical activity for heart failure?

In cardiac medicine, it was advisable to take care of people with weak hearts. These days, however, it is advisable to engage in physical activities with a lot of movement with relatively little effort, such as walking or cycling. However, resilience must be tested beforehand.

These expert statements show how important it is to recognize heart failure early and start treatment. If you have the slightest suspicion of heart failure, it is imperative to see a cardiologist. (as)

Author and source information

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This text complies with the requirements of specialized medical literature, medical directives and ongoing studies and has been verified by healthcare professionals.


German Heart Foundation: Shortness of Breath and Exhaustion: Heart Failure May Be Behind (published October 15, 2020), German Heart Foundation

Important note:
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.