One potential symptom of congestive heart failure is a cardiac cough. This may occur because of fluid building up in the lungs, and it may be a sign that the condition is worsening.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6.2 million Americans have heart failure. This means that their heart is not able to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to organs throughout the body.

One potential sign of congestive heart failure is a cardiac cough, which is a wet, chesty cough.

It may occur as a result of fluid buildup in the lungs. However, it can also be a side effect of medications taken to help treat heart failure.

Read on to learn more about cardiac cough and heart failure.

Coughing may be linked to heart failure. In these cases, it’s often referred to as cardiac cough. However, having a cough doesn’t mean you have heart failure — it’s just a symptom that may be linked to the condition.

In addition to a cough, congestive heart failure can cause shallow breaths and a whistling noise. These symptoms may be worse when lying down. This can all be related to extra fluids in the lungs.

A cough that is related to heart failure often sounds wet and may be accompanied by blood-tinged mucus. On the other hand, coughs caused by medications used to treat congestive heart failure often sound dry.

Coughing may be a sign that your heart failure is getting worse. One 2017 study found that lung congestion was a primary cause of hospital admission among individuals with heart failure.

You may develop a cough with congestive heart failure because of fluid in the lungs.

When the heart is unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body, fluid retention can occur. Additionally, with heart failure, blood backs up in the arteries in the lungs, leading to fluid accumulation in the air sacs of the lungs.

This is a condition known as pulmonary edema. When this happens, the body will try to clear out the lungs by coughing.

As previously discussed, medications commonly prescribed for heart failure can also cause coughing. One example of this is angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors).

Other signs of heart failure can include:

  • fatigue
  • swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs
  • difficulty breathing
  • frequent urination
  • nausea
  • lightheadedness
  • dizziness
  • weight gain

Learn more about the signs of heart failure.

Treatment for congestive heart failure typically includes drugs that reduce the amount of sodium and fluid in the body. It may also include medications to slow the heart rate and relax the blood vessels.

In some cases, surgery may be needed to fix heart defects or implant a device that helps the heart pump. If other treatments have not worked, a heart transplant may be necessary.

Learn more about developing a treatment plan for congestive heart failure.

In addition to medications, a variety of lifestyle changes may be suggested to manage symptoms of congestive heart failure and keep your heart healthy. These can include:

  • reducing salt intake
  • stopping smoking, if applicable
  • drinking less liquid
  • getting regular exercise
  • limiting alcohol consumption

If you think you have signs of heart failure, it’s a good idea to contact your doctor. You should also notify your doctor if you have been diagnosed with heart failure and experience a worsening of symptoms, such as:

  • swelling in the feet, ankles, or legs
  • blood or pink-tinged mucus when coughing
  • increasing shortness of breath during daily activities or when lying down
  • rapid weight gain

It’s important to get immediate care if you are experiencing confusion, blue and grayish skin, or an inability to breathe freely.

Is coughing a sign of late stage heart failure?

Cardiac coughing may be a sign that your heart failure is getting worse. However, coughing can be related to many causes. Your healthcare professional can help determine the cause of your cough.

Should I be concerned about my cough?

If a cough is persistent, includes blood, or you’re having difficulty breathing, you should let your doctor know. You should also notify your doctor if a cough is accompanied by other symptoms like chest pain, fever, or difficulty swallowing.

Is coughing related to congestive heart failure curable?

Cardiac cough may be improved by treating the underlying heart failure. This may include medications, lifestyle changes, and even heart surgery.

If the cough is due to medication, such as an ACE inhibitor, your doctor may recommend stopping and switching to a different medication.

Coughing can be a sign of worsening congestive heart failure. A cardiac cough is often the result of fluid building up in the lungs and may include pink-tinged phlegm or blood.

If you’re showing signs of congestive heart failure or your heart failure symptoms are becoming more severe, it’s important to let your doctor know. They can recommend medications and lifestyle changes to reduce extra fluids in the body and treat related conditions.