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New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center

Congestive Heart Failure & Coughing: What to Do When Experiencing Cardiac Cough?

Cardiac cough needs medical treatment as overlooking this condition can land you in an emergency room. Do not ignore persistent cough, especially when it is followed by alarming symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and other limitations. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Steven Reisman at the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center to have your condition carefully assessed and diagnosed to prevent it from turning severe. The experienced New York cardiologist will pinpoint the potential causes of your congestive heart failure and the stage at which your disease has progressed to provide the best treatment options for your heart health.

Coughing is a common symptom accompanied by lung or respiratory issues but what most people do not know is how it may be connected to the heart. Known as cardiac cough, it often happens to those with congestive heart failure and means their treatment is not working well. Bad cough and congestive heart failure (CHF) are a warning that treatment for heart failure is either failing or reacting poorly with the body and needs medical attention.

Understanding the relationship between congestive heart failure and coughing can help you treat your cardiac cough when it occurs with worsened symptoms.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to meet the body’s demands. This impairment can result from several pre-existing cardiac disorders.

Symptoms of congestive heart failure include:

  • Fatigue;
  • Weakness;
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea);
  • Edema (swelling);
  • Wheezing or chronic coughing.

When the heart cannot pump blood effectively, any returning circulation from the heart to the lungs can get backed up. It can result in pulmonary congestion, hence the name congestive heart failure. This condition is the main reason behind a chronic cough.

Cardiac cough or heart cough can also be a side effect of certain medications used for treating heart failure, but it is necessary to have your doctor figure out what is causing it.

Cardiac Cough


When lungs become congested due to congestive heart failure, excess fluid can start to leak into the air sacs, also known as alveoli. Coughing is the body’s natural response to clear the blocked airway and relieve the congestion in the bronchial passage.

If you have been diagnosed with CHF, you must seek professional medical assistance to track the symptoms and manage your condition. Any sudden changes to your symptoms can be a sign of a treatment failure, and you must follow the physicians’ instructions to prevent any complications.

Symptoms of cardiac cough

For heart failure patients, the frequent cough, along with these symptoms, indicates cardiac cough. They include:

  • Dyspnea – if you get out of breath while performing a simple activity or even during sleeping, it could be dyspnea. The breathlessness results from CHF, where pulmonary congestion occurs and the fluid leaks into the lungs.
  • Wheezing – Productive cough produces white or blood-tinged mucus that indicates fluid buildup in the lungs. It also causes labored breathing and wheezing.
  • Confusion and impaired thinking – CHF can result in disorientation, fatigue, weakness, and memory loss. It affects the lung’s efficiency in transporting sufficient oxygen to the brain and the rest of the body.

What to Do?

If you cough every time you take a deep breath or find yourself getting out of breath after talking for some time, you may be dealing with chronic cough. Keep an eye on your symptoms and consult an experienced physician to know about treatment and management options that can help to alleviate your cough and provide relief.

If you are experiencing unmanageable episodes of cardiac coughing, seek immediate medical attention as it could aggravate the condition, particularly if you are suffering from CHF or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Dealing with a cardiac cough can be stressful or overwhelming and further aggravates the situation if it is not treated timely.

Treating and Managing Cardiac Cough

Congestive heart failure needs prompt treatment. Doctors also recommend managing cardiac cough with lifestyle changes so that the failing heart does not have to work as hard and the medications can work better.

Medications are recommended for reducing fluid in the body or helping the ventricle contract better. They include:

  • Diuretics to remove the fluid;
  • Nitrates that open the blood vessels for easy blood flows;
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors for normal ventricle contraction;
  • Beta-blockers for slowing the heart rate;
  • Medication for keeping the blood pressure level in control.

Cardiac cough can be managed by:

  • Taking the doctor’s prescribed medications properly;
  • Eating a healthy diet;
  • Maintaining ideal body weight;
  • Reducing the intake of salt and extra fluid in the diet;
  • Avoiding tobacco and smoking;
  • Avoiding taking any medicine without first consulting your heart doctor;
  • Reporting worsening symptoms to the doctor.

In some cases of heart failure, surgery is necessary to avoid further damage to the heart and improve its functions.

Do not take your cough lightly if you have heart failure, and see your heart doctor immediately. Even a virus or allergy can complicate things for you. Dr. Steven Reisman at the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center investigates your condition using the most state-of-the-art diagnostic methods and tests to detect what is distressing your heart. The cardiologist will also look into other conditions that contribute to congestive heart failure and suggest the best treatment and therapies alleviate your discomfort and prevent life-threatening consequences. He will monitor your heart health closely to ensure your heart continues to pump blood to other parts of the body without any hindrance.

Dr. Steven Reisman | Cardiologist in New York City

Dr. Steven Reisman is an internationally recognized cardiologist and heart specialist. He is a member of the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and a founding member of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.

Dr. Reisman has presented original research findings for the early detection of "high risk" heart disease and severe coronary artery disease at the annual meetings of both the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. Dr. Reisman was part of a group of doctors with the Food and Drug Administration who evaluated the dipyridamole thallium testing technique before the FDA approved it.

Dr. Steven Reisman's academic appointments include Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California and Assistant Professor at SUNY. Hospital appointments include the Director of Nuclear Cardiology at the Long Island College Hospital.

This page was published on Oct 26, 2021, modified on May 24, 2022 by Dr. Reisman (Cardiologist) of New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center

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