If This Happens to You in the Bathroom, Get Checked for Heart Failure


As average life expectancy continues to increase in the U.S., heart failure is becoming more and more common. Left untreated, this type of heart disease has a tendency to progress rapidly, making early diagnosis important. Unfortunately, heart failure can be hard to detect in early stages, as its subtler symptoms are easy to miss or ignore.

Since some heart failure symptoms are not obviously related to a heart problem, they may be mistaken for signs of a different health issue, or simply dismissed as part the normal aging process. Some of these surprising heart failure symptoms include swollen feet or ankles, various skin abnormalities, heartburn, lack of appetite, overall fatigue, and even jaw or neck pain. But there's another heart failure symptom you may miss, and it has to do with your bathroom habits. Read on to find out what surprising symptom could indicate heart failure, and when to seek medical attention.

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This bladder issue could be a sign of heart failure.

If you find yourself making excessive trips to the bathroom throughout the day or night because you need to pee, you could be experiencing a symptom of heart failure. According to a study published in the June 2018 issue of the International Neurourology Journal, up to 50 percent of patients with heart failure suffer from an overactive bladder and urinary incontinence.

Why? Heart failure weakens your heart and reduces its ability to efficiently pump blood, which can cause multiple problems, including a buildup of fluids. "One of the key findings of heart failure is the accumulation of excess fluid in the body," says Edo Paz, MD, cardiologist and VP of Medical at K Health. "This can lead to typical heart failure symptoms like leg swelling and difficulty breathing. One of the ways that the body responds to this excess fluid is by increasing the amount of urine produced by the kidneys."

This extra urine in the kidneys then makes its way to the bladder, causing the need to pee more often.

What constitutes frequent urination?
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So, how many bathroom trips are too many bathroom trips? According to the Bladder and Bowel Community, urinating six or seven times in 24 hours is about average. However, this number is obviously affected by other lifestyle and health factors including age, level of physical activity, volume and type of liquids consumed, certain medications, and other health conditions. They say using the bathroom anywhere from four to ten times a day is within normal range.

If you are consistently peeing more than ten times a day, going more often than usual unrelated to other factors, or just feel that something is off, you may want to visit a cardiologist.

"Most people know their bodies better than any doctor does," Parag Joshi, MD, told Johns Hopkins Medicine. "In general, if you constantly feel something isn't 'right' or isn't what you're used to, that warrants medical attention."

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Heart failure medication can make this symptom worse.

For those already diagnosed with heart failure, several types of widely-used treatments for the condition can also affect the bladder and its functions. "Doctors frequently prescribe medications like diuretics that encourage increased urine output to improve symptoms," says Paz.

Because their main function is to relieve some of the fluid buildup caused by heart failure, these medications can make people need to pee more often. This is typically more noticeable and troublesome at night, referred to as nocturia, which is why doctors typically recommend that patients avoid taking them in the evening before bed.

Frequent urination has plenty of other causes.

According to Paz, there are many other conditions or factors besides heart failure which can lead to frequent urination. He lists excess consumption of fluids or caffeine, diabetes, urinary tract infections, benign prostatic hyperplasia, interstitial cystitis, and overactive bladder as a few alternative causes.

Looking at any other symptoms you may be experiencing can help identify the underlying cause of frequent urination, says Paz. And if needing to pee a lot is your only complaint, your heart is unlikely to be the culprit.

"Heart failure is less likely to cause frequent urination in isolation," he explains. "Instead, heart failure is typically associated with other symptoms like shortness of breath, leg swelling, and fatigue. If frequent urination is the only symptom, it is more likely to be a cause other than heart failure."

READ THIS NEXT: The 3 Signs Your Chest Pain Isn't a Heart Attack, Experts Say.