Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Basically, the heart can’t keep up with its workload.

Heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart has stopped or is about to stop working, but rather that the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal.

Heart failure

There are two main types:
1. Heart failure due to left ventricular dysfunction: This is usually divided into heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) or heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).
2. Right-sided heart failure: This means the right side of the heart can’t pump blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen.

Symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs, and rapid heartbeat. The condition can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication in many cases. More serious cases may require surgery or a heart transplant.

Causes of Heart failure

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is a condition that occurs when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Here are some of the main causes:

1. Coronary Artery Disease: This is a disease of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. It causes decreased blood flow to the heart muscle. If the arteries become blocked or severely narrowed, the heart becomes starved for oxygen and nutrients leading to heart failure.

2. High Blood Pressure: When your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder than normal to circulate blood throughout your body. Over time, this extra exertion can make your heart muscle too weak or too stiff to efficiently pump blood.

3. Heart Attack: A heart attack might damage enough heart muscle that the remaining heart muscle can’t adequately pump blood to the rest of your body.

4. Cardiomyopathy: This is damage to the heart muscle. It can be caused by drug use, viral infections, excessive alcohol use, or for reasons that are often unknown.

5. Heart Valve Disease: When heart valves don’t open enough to allow the blood to flow through as it should, the heart needs to work harder to force the blood through. This extra work can weaken the heart and lead to heart failure.

6. Myocarditis: This is inflammation of the heart muscle, usually caused by a virus, leading to left-sided heart failure.

7. Congenital Heart Disease: Some people are born with a defect that makes their heart work harder to pump blood to the body, causing it to fail.

8. Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms): These can cause your heart to beat too fast, creating extra work for your heart. A slow heartbeat might mean your heart can’t pump enough blood out to the body.

9. Chronic diseases: Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, or a buildup of iron (hemochromatosis) or protein (amyloidosis) can also contribute to heart failure.

10. Obesity: Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease. Excess body weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart failure — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

It’s important to manage these conditions and adopt a healthy lifestyle to help prevent heart failure.

Risk Factors of Heart failure

Heart failure is a serious condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Several risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing this condition:

1. Age: Heart failure is most common in older people, particularly those over the age of 65.

2. Coronary artery disease: This occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked, which can damage the heart and lead to heart failure.

3. High blood pressure (hypertension): Over time, if it’s uncontrolled, high blood pressure can strain the heart and lead to heart failure.

4. Diabetes: Diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart failure.

5. Obesity: Excess weight means your heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body which can lead to heart failure.

6. Irregular heartbeats: Certain conditions can lead to abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), which can weaken the heart and eventually cause heart failure.

7. Past heart attack: Having a heart attack can severely damage the heart’s muscles, increasing the risk of heart failure.

8. Smoking: This can damage the heart’s structure and functionality, which makes smoking a major risk factor for heart failure.

9. Alcohol and drug use: Overuse of alcohol or use of illicit drugs can weaken the heart muscles and lead to heart failure.

10. Certain medications: Some medicines may lead to heart failure or make it worse. These include certain medications for high blood pressure, diabetes, and even some over-the-counter and prescription drugs, supplements, and remedies.

Any of these factors can lead to heart failure. If you’re concerned about any of them, it’s important to speak to a healthcare professional, who can help manage these risk factors and monitor your heart health.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart failure

Heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It can occur if the heart cannot pump (systolic) or fill (diastolic) adequately. Here are the signs and symptoms associated with heart failure:

1. Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea): This can occur while you are active, at rest, or while trying to sleep. Fluid builds up in the lungs making it hard to breathe.

2. Persistent Coughing or Wheezing: This could be due to fluid retention in the lungs. The cough may often produce a white or pink mucus.

3. Swelling (Edema): You might notice swelling in your feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen. This is caused by the buildup of excess fluid in these areas.

4. Fatigue: People with heart failure may experience tiredness or fatigue because the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, resulting in limited energy.

5. Lack of Appetite or Nausea: This is caused by a digestive issue from fluid around the liver and intestines causing a feeling of fullness or loss of appetite.

6. Increased Heart Rate: This occurs as the heart attempts to beat faster to compensate for its failing pumping capacity.

7. Confusion or Impaired Thinking: Changing levels of certain substances in the blood (like sodium) can cause confusion, altered alertness, lack of attention, or memory loss.

8. Rapid Weight Gain: A sudden weight gain of two or more pounds in a day can indicate fluid retention, which is one of the signs of heart failure.

Please note, these symptoms may manifest differently in different people. A person does not need to have all these symptoms to be diagnosed with heart failure. If you or anyone experiences these symptoms, please consult a healthcare professional immediately.

Diagnosis Heart failure

Heart failure, often referred to as congestive heart failure (CHF), is a condition where your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It does not mean that the heart has stopped working, but rather the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. This could mean that the heart can’t pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs, or the heart can’t fill with enough blood, and therefore the heart must work harder.

Heart failure is caused by many conditions that damage the heart muscle, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen legs, and rapid heartbeat.

The diagnosis of heart failure is typically made based on medical history, physical examination, and confirmatory tests such as an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, or heart MRI. Other tests may also be conducted to determine the cause of heart failure, such as blood tests, chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG), stress testing, or coronary angiography.

Treatment options for heart failure include medications, lifestyle changes, sometimes devices like pacemakers or defibrillators, and in severe cases, heart transplant. The treatment goal is to improve the heart’s pumping action and relieve symptoms.

Treatment of Heart failure

Treatment for heart failure typically involves lifestyle and medication management, but in some cases, surgery may be required. It is important to note that specific treatments depend on the cause and severity of the heart failure.

1. Lifestyle Changes: These include regular physical activity, reducing salt and fluid intake, quitting smoking, losing weight if overweight, and avoiding or limiting alcohol.

2. Medication: Various medications are used to manage heart failure such as:
ACE inhibitors or Angiotensin II receptor blockers: These dilate the blood vessels to improve blood flow and decrease the workload on the heart.
Beta blockers: These slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure, thus reducing the stress on the heart.
Diuretics: They help reduce fluid buildup in lungs and swelling in feet and ankles.
Digoxin: It helps the heart pump with more strength.

3. Surgical and Medical Devices: Depending on the severity, some situations might call for more than medication:
Pacemaker: This small device regulates the heart beat.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): The device constantly monitors the heart rhythm, delivering electrical shocks when needed to control life-threatening, irregular heartbeats.
Heart pumps: These aid in the pumping function of the heart muscles.

4. Surgery: If medications aren’t enough, procedures like coronary bypass surgery, heart valve repair or replacement, or even heart transplant might be necessary.

Remember, it’s crucial to have regular check-ups with a healthcare professional to monitor and manage heart failure effectively.

Please keep in mind that this information is just a guideline. It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment options.

Medications commonly used for Heart failure

Sure. Here are some of the more common categories of medications used to treat heart failure:

1. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: These drugs dilate blood vessels to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow and decrease the workload of the heart. Examples include lisinopril (Zestril), enalapril (Vasotec), and ramipril (Altace).

2. Beta blockers: This class of drugs not only slows your heart rate and reduces blood pressure but also limits or reverses some of the damage to your heart. Examples include carvedilol (Coreg) and metoprolol (Lopressor).

3. Diuretics: Often called “water pills,” these medications help eliminate excess fluid from your body. This reduces the amount of work your heart has to do. They may also reduce the symptoms of heart failure such as shortness of breath. Furosemide (Lasix) and bumetanide (Bumex) are common examples.

4. Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): These drugs have many of the beneficial effects of ACE inhibitors. They may be an alternative for people who can’t tolerate ACE inhibitors. Examples include losartan (Cozaar) and valsartan (Diovan).

5. Inotropes: These are intravenous medications used in severe heart failure cases in the hospital to improve heart pumping function and maintain blood pressure.

6. Digoxin: Sometimes used in conjunction with other medications to provide short-term relief of heart failure symptoms. It can help you breathe better when your symptoms are stable and help you stay out of the hospital.

7. Aldosterone antagonists: These drugs include spironolactone (Aldactone) and eplerenone (Inspra). They are used for people with certain types of severe heart failure.

8. Sacubitril/Valsartan (Entresto): This is a newer medication that has been shown to reduce hospitalization and lengthen life in some people with heart failure.

Remember, this is a general overview of the medications used to treat heart failure. The actual prescription depends upon the severity of the condition, patient’s medical history, and their response to the treatment. Hence, it is advised to consult with a healthcare provider for proper treatment.

Prevention of Heart failure

Preventing heart failure mostly involves managing the risk factors that contribute to it. Here are some measures you can take:

1. Healthy Diet: Eat a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. Avoid high amounts of saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.

2. Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps your heart pump blood more efficiently and keeps your blood vessels healthy. Regular cardio workouts, such as walking, bicycling, or jogging, can help prevent heart disease.

3. No Smoking: Smoking damages your heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease. If you smoke, it’s crucial to quit.

4. Control Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart failure. Regular check-ups, reducing sodium intake, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and medication (if prescribed) are all ways to control hypertension.

5. Manage Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can cause damage to your heart and blood vessels. If you have diabetes, it’s important to manage your blood sugar levels through diet, physical activity, and medication.

6. Moderate Alcohol Use: Excessive drinking can contribute to high blood pressure and heart failure. It’s better to stick to moderate, sensible amounts.

7. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can increase the risk of heart disease as it requires your heart to work harder. Diet and exercise can help maintain a healthy weight.

8. Regular Health Check-ups: Regular visits to your doctor can help in early detection of any potential heart health problem. It’s particularly important if you have a family history of heart disease.

9. Limit Stress: Chronic stress may contribute to heart disease, particularly if you react to it with unhealthy lifestyle habits. Find ways to reduce stress, such as through meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or hobbies.


10. Medication: For those with conditions that increase the risk of heart failure like hypertension, coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, etc., taking prescribed medications is pivotal.

Note: It is always recommended to consult with a medical professional or healthcare provider for personalized advice.

FAQ’s about Heart failure

1. What is Heart Failure?
Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean the heart has stopped working, but that it needs some support to help it work better.

2. What are the symptoms of Heart Failure?
Symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath (especially when lying down or exercising), swelling in the legs, ankles and feet, rapid or irregular heartbeat with a feeling of fluttering or pounding in the chest, persistent coughing or wheezing and fluid retention.

3. What are the causes of Heart Failure?
Heart failure can be caused by a variety of conditions that damage the heart muscle, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, and conditions that overwork the heart such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and severe lung disease.

4. How is Heart Failure diagnosed?
Doctors usually diagnose heart failure based on medical history, a physical exam, and results from tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), chest X-ray, echocardiogram, cardiac stress tests, CT scan, or MRI.

5. What is the treatment for Heart Failure?
While heart failure is a serious condition that progressively worsens over time, many people with heart failure lead a full, enjoyable life when the condition is managed with heart failure medications and healthy lifestyle changes.

6. Can Heart Failure be prevented?
Most cases of heart failure can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle meaning controlling high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity. Other important preventive measures include avoiding tobacco and alcohol and eating a heart-healthy diet.

7. Is Heart Failure curable?
Currently, there’s no cure for heart failure. However, treatments and lifestyle adjustments can help improve quality of life and delay progression of the disease.

8. Can Heart Failure be reversed?
In some cases, heart failure can be reversed with proper and quick treatment. Generally, heart failure is a chronic, long-term condition, but it can sometimes be managed well with medicines and lifestyle changes.

9. Does Heart Failure mean you’re dying?
While heart failure is a serious health condition, it does not mean that imminent death is inevitable. With the right treatment and lifestyle adjustments, it is possible to live with the condition for many years.

10. How long can you live with Heart Failure?
It varies greatly from person to person. Many people with heart failure live for many years after diagnosis. The degree of heart failure and the presence of other diseases can definitely influence the life expectancy. With appropriate medical care, heart failure will not necessarily reduce lifespan.

Remember, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you have heart failure for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Useful links

Heart failure, sometimes known as congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It can be caused by several conditions, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Here are some helpful links from journals relating to heart failure:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30729894/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30717842/

Please note that it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

Complications of Heart failure

Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, can have serious complications. These include the following:

1. Kidney Damage or Failure: Heart failure can reduce the blood flow to your kidneys, which can eventually cause kidney failure if left untreated. This also can lead to a need for dialysis.

2. Heart Valve Problems: The valves of your heart, which keep blood flowing in the correct direction, may not function properly if your heart is enlarged or if the pressure in your heart is very high due to heart failure.

3. Heart Rhythm Problems: Heart failure can lead to a rapid, irregular heartbeat that can cause a sudden, severe loss of heart function, leading to fainting or sudden death.

4. Liver Damage: Heart failure can lead to a buildup of fluid that puts too much pressure on the liver. This fluid backup can lead to liver damage.

5. Shortness of Breath and Fatigue: This occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. These symptoms can limit your ability to exercise and perform daily activities.

6. Fluid Retention: When the heart doesn’t pump blood properly, it can lead to fluid build-up in the body causing swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen.

7. Stroke: The irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) in people with heart failure can lead to a higher risk of stroke.

8. Pulmonary edema: This condition can occur when the chambers of your heart can’t pump blood effectively, leading to fluid backing up into your lungs, causing shortness of breath.

It is very crucial to manage heart failure symptoms promptly to avoid these complications.

Home remedies of Heart failure

It’s important to note that heart failure is a serious medical condition. While lifestyle changes can support medical treatments, they should not replace medical consultation, medication, or therapy. Here are some tips to manage heart symptoms or prevent further heart damage, but again, please consult your doctor before starting any home regimen for heart failure:

1. Reduce Salt Intake: Sodium can cause fluid retention and worsen heart failure symptoms. Aim for a diet with no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day.

2. Physical Activity: Regular, moderate exercise can strengthen your heart and improve circulation.

3. Healthy Weight: If you are overweight, it puts extra strain on your heart. Aim for a healthy weight by following a balanced diet and regular exercise regimen.

4. Limit Fluid Intake: Your doctor may recommend limiting the amount of fluids you drink, as too much liquid can strain a weakened heart.

5. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can be harmful in large quantities. They can affect heart rhythm, blood pressure and could potentially worsen heart failure symptoms.

6. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet: Include whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet. These are low in salt and sugar, and high in vitamins and nutrients.

7. Monitoring your Symptoms: Keeping close tabs on symptoms can help identify worsening heart failure quickly. Regular weight monitoring is also important to identify fluid retention.

8. Control Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can worsen existing heart problems and heighten the risk of heart failure. It’s crucial to keep blood pressure within a healthy range, which can be done by a combination of diet, exercise, stress management and medication (if prescribed by a doctor).

9. Quit Smoking: If you smoke, stop. Smoke can damage the heart’s machinery and worsens heart conditions.

10. Stress Management: Unmanaged stress can exacerbate heart problems. Find techniques that help you cope, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.

Remember, these are supportive measures and should never replace prescribed medication or treatments. Always follow your healthcare professional’s advice when managing heart failure.

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Heart Health,

Last Update: January 2, 2024