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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan

Congestive Heart Failure Signs You Must Know

Congestive heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped working. However, it can lead to that if left untreated. Learn how to spot the signs here.

Congestive heart failure is the number one diagnosis among people over 65 who are hospitalized.

Knowing the signs of congestive heart failure can save your life. Do you know what they are? Many Americans don’t.

Plus, it’s easy to be confused about heart failure. It doesn’t mean that your heart has stopped working. Instead, it indicates that your heart is not working as efficiently as it should.

In this article, you’ll learn how to spot the symptoms of congestive heart failure before it turns deadly. You’ll also learn about the various treatment options that are available.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure may lead to the pooling of fluid in the lungs, which can cause shortness of breath.

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should, leading to fluids building up in the Lungs and body.

It occurs when the heart muscle develops a mechanical problem or becomes less able to contract over time, limiting its ability to fill with blood.

As a result, the heart cannot keep up with the body’s demand for blood. It returns to the heart faster than it can be pumped out, resulting in a backup.


Heart failure risk increases as you get older. In fact, it’s the number one diagnosis in hospitalized patients over 65.

Some people are genetically predisposed to it, while many others develop the condition due to poor lifestyle habits.

Medications that affect the heart muscle can increase the risk. You may also be prone to the condition if you have one of the following underlying health conditions:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • History of heart attack
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart issues at birth
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Arrhythmia
  • Drug or tobacco use
  • Infections
  • Some chemotherapy medications


If you are experiencing congestive heart failure, the body will try to compensate. Your heart may beat faster to take less time to refill after it contracts. However, when left untreated, this may lead to heart palpitations.

Your heart may also become enlarged to make room for the blood. You may experience shortness of breath as the Lungs fill with fluid. Also, the kidneys may start to retain water and sodium due to the lack of blood, increasing the risk of kidney failure.

Here are some common signs of heart failure:

  • Shortness of breath, especially while lying down
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness in the legs during periods of being active
  • Weight gain
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • The urge to urinate often while lying in bed at night
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Bloated or hard stomach
  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Swelling in the ankles, abdomen, or legs

Congestive Heart Failure, According To TCM

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), congestive heart failure is caused by the formation and chronic accumulation of pathogenic factors. This includes cold, phlegm, fluid retention, blood stasis, and qi stagnation.

These factors are due to either unhealthy lifestyle habits and stressful working environment, or yang and qi deficient body constitution. Overall, it is an extensively systemic condition that involves not only the heart but also the four other vital viscera: Liver, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys.

According to TCM physician Brandon Yew, certain lifestyle factors may reduce your risk of the condition. He stated that “things like cutting down on alcohol, stopping smoking, eating a heart-healthy and balanced diet, losing the extra pounds if overweight by exercising regularly, having a good work-life balance, and maintaining good emotional health” can help.

Western Medicine Treatment

Western medicine states that there is no cure or specific treatment for the condition. If diagnosed, your doctor will try to reduce your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

Your doctor may also prescribe certain medications to expand blood vessels, ease blood flow, and reduce blood pressure, such as vasodilators.

He or she may also prescribe diuretics to reduce fluid retention and aldosterone or ACE inhibitors to improve heart function and life expectancy.

TCM Heart Failure Treatment

You can better manage the manifestations of congestive heart failure by using TCM herbal medication, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, guasha (scraping), and tuina (Chinese manual therapy). 

Herbal Remedies

Here are some over-the-counter TCM herbal remedies you can take to support heart health:

  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu decoction: Dissipates and dispels blood stasis and qi stagnation, and restores and bolsters blood and qi circulation within the liver and heart meridians.  
  • Gua Lou Xie Bai Ban Xia decoction: Disintegrates and dispels phlegm within the spleen and lungs meridians and restores and bolsters qi and blood circulation to the heart. 
  • Ling Gui Zhu Gan decoction: Regenerates spleen’s qi and yang energy to dissipate and dispel dampness and fluid retention, facilitating better qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the heart.  
  • Zhen Wu decoction: Regenerates qi and yang energy of the heart, spleen, and kidneys to dissipate and dispel dampness and fluid retention, facilitating better qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the heart.  
  • Bu Yang Huan Wu decoction: Regenerates qi and yang energy of the heart, spleen, and lungs to disintegrate and dispel blood stasis and restores and bolsters qi and blood circulation to the heart. 
  • Sheng Mai decoction: Revitalizes the heart, spleen, and lungs and regenerates both qi and yin energies, facilitating better qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the heart. 

You can also support heart health by taking red yeast rice extract. It has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of congestive heart failure.


Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy you can do at home. To perform it effectively, place fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints and apply an appropriate amount of pressure to elicit a sensation of soreness or tenderness.

At the same time, massage in both clockwise and anticlockwise circular motion 20 times each. Repeat for at least 3 minutes per acupoint.

The acupoints that might help are: 

  • Dan Zhong RN17: This acupoint relieves pressure within the thoracic cavity, improves qi and blood circulation to the heart and lungs
  • Hegu LI4: He Gu LI4 dispels qi stagnation, restores and boosts qi and blood circulation to the heart and lungs.
  • Neiguan PC6: This acupoint strengthens the heart qi, dissipates blood stasis, and restores and boosts blood circulation to the heart.
  • Yinlingquan SP9: Dispels dampness and fluid retention to reduce swelling, strengthens the spleen, restores and boosts qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the heart.
  • Zusanli ST36: This acupoint dispels dampness and phlegm, strengthens the stomach, restores and boosts qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the heart
  • Fenglong ST40: Dispels dampness and phlegm, strengthens the stomach, restores and boosts qi, blood, and fluid circulation to the heart.
  • Fuliu KI7: Strengthens the kidneys, dispels fluid retention and reduces swelling, facilitates better blood and fluid circulation to the heart.
  • Taichong LR3: Soothes liver to dissipate and dispels qi stagnation and blood stasis, restores and boosts qi and blood circulation to the heart.

Don’t Try To Self-Medicate!

Never – at any time – should you try to self-medicate. Please always seek professional help from a licensed TCM physician. He or she will first assess your unique body constitution and medical state before formulating and prescribing the most suitable treatment plan for you.

Congestive heart failure is a grave medical condition. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you do not neglect medical help from your cardiologist whilst undergoing TCM treatment, even if the symptoms are mild.



  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17069-heart-failure-understanding-heart-failure
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/congestive-heart-failure-prevention-treatment-and-research#:~:text=Congestive%20heart%20failure%20(also%20called,is%20about%20to%20stop%20working.

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