Heart failure

Medically reviewed by A Rash MD. Last updated June 12, 2022

Heart failure — also called congestive heart failure is in the event that your heart muscle isn’t able to pump blood as efficiently as it ought to. If this occurs blood can back up, and fluid may build within the lungs. This can cause shortness of breath.

Certain heart diseases like narrowed arteries within the heart (coronary arterial condition) and high blood pressure, slowly cause the heart to become inflexible or weak to fill it and effectively pump blood.

A proper treatment plan can reduce the symptoms and signs of heart failure. It can also aid in prolonging the lives of certain people. Changes in your lifestyle — like losing weight, working out, cutting down on the amount of salt (sodium) from your daily diet, and managing stress will improve the quality of your life. However, heart failure may be life-threatening. Patients suffering from heart failure could suffer from severe symptoms and some may require the transplantation of a heart or a heart assist device (VAD).

One method to avoid heart disease is to identify and treat conditions that may trigger it, like coronary arterial disease as well as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.



Heart failure can be persistent (chronic) or it can occur abruptly (acute).

Heart failure symptoms and signs can include:

When should you seek medical help

Visit your physician if suspect you are having symptoms or signs of heart problems. Get urgent medical assistance if are experiencing any of these:

While these symptoms and signs may be related to heart disease There are many other possibilities of causing it, including serious lung and heart conditions. Don’t attempt to diagnose yourself.

Doctors in the emergency room will attempt to treat your symptoms and determine if the symptoms are caused by heart failure or another.

If you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure, and one of your symptoms suddenly worsens or you experience any new sign or symptom this could mean that your existing heart condition is becoming worse or is not reacting to treatments. It may also happen when you gain 5 pounds (2.3 kg) or more in several days. Contact your doctor promptly.



Normal heart chambers
Chambers and valves of the heart

Heart failure is often the result of other ailments caused by damage or the weakening of the heart. But, it can be triggered if the heart is stiff.

In the event of heart failure, the primary chambers that pump blood to the heart (the ventricles) can be stiff and not fill adequately between heartbeats. For some, the muscle of the heart may be damaged and weak. Ventricles can expand until the heart cannot supply enough blood to the body.

As time passes the heart’s ability to not keep up with the normal demands that it is required to deliver blood to the rest of the body.

Heart Failure
Enlarged heart in heart failure

Your doctor will determine the efficiency of your heart pumping by determining the amount of blood is released with every beat (ejection fraction). Ejection fractions are used to classify heart failure and help guide treatment. If the heart is healthy, the ejection percentage is greater than 50% which means that more than half the blood in the ventricle gets pumped out with every beat.

Heart failure is a possibility even when there is an ejection fraction that is normal. It happens when the heart muscle gets stiff due to conditions like excessive blood pressure.

Heart failure may affect your left (left ventricle) and or the right (right ventricle) or both sides of your heart. Most often, heart failure starts on the left side particularly the left ventricle – the heart’s primary pumping chamber.

Heart failure of a type Description
Heart failure left-sided Fluid can build up inside the lungs, leading to breathlessness.
Heart failure of the right side The fluid could get back in the legs, abdomen, and feet, which can cause swelling.
Heart failure with systolic function (also known as heart failure with decreased ejection) The left ventricle doesn’t contract quickly, suggesting an issue with pumping.
Heart failure that is preserved with an Ejection fraction The left ventricle isn’t able to relax or fill completely it’s a sign of a filling problem.

The following conditions can cause damage or weakness to your heart and cause heart failure. These conditions may be present even without you knowing about them.

The causes for abrupt (acute) heart problems can comprise:

Risk factors

A single risk factor could be enough to trigger heart failure However, the combination of risk factors increases the risk.

Heart failure risk factors are:


Heart failure complications depend in the degree of your heart disease, overall health, and other factors like age. Potential complications could include:


The best way to prevent heart disease is to lower the risk factors. You can eliminate or reduce some of the cardiovascular risk factors by making lifestyle changes that are healthy as well as taking the medicines recommended by your doctor.

Changes in your lifestyle to avoid heart problems can include:


For the diagnosis of heart failure, your doctor will conduct the time to take a thorough medical history, examine your symptoms and then perform a physical exam. Your doctor will also look for high-risk factors that could lead to heart failure, for example, high blood pressure or coronary artery disease. diabetes.


Your doctor will be able to look at your lungs to detect indications of fluid accumulation (lung congestion) as well as your heart for sound (murmurs) which could indicate heart malfunction. The doctor can look at the veins in your neck and look for any signs of fluid buildup in your legs and abdomen.

Following the physical exam, your doctor could be able to prescribe some of these tests:

Tests to determine the cause of heart failure can help doctors identify the reason for symptoms or signs and then decide on the most appropriate treatment. To determine the best course of treatment to treat heart disease, physicians can classify heart failure by using two different systems:

New York Heart Association classification

This scale categorizes heart failure into four categories.

The American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology classification

This classification system is based on stage and utilizes letters A to D. It also has an option for those that are most at risk of developing heart problems. The doctors use the classification method to determine risks and initiate an early and more aggressive treatment to prevent or delay heart failure.

The doctor you see often uses both classification systems to determine the best treatment option. Your doctor will be able to assist you in understanding your score and determine your treatment according to the condition you are suffering from.


Heart failure can be described as a long-lasting disease that requires ongoing treatment. With treatment, the signs and symptoms of heart failure may be improved, and sometimes, the heart gets stronger.

Doctors may be able to treat heart failure by addressing the root cause. For instance, fixing the heart valve or managing an irregular heart beat can reverse the heart’s failure. However, for the majority of patients, treatment for heart failure is a mix of the appropriate medications and, in some cases, the making use of devices that aid in your heart to beat in a healthy way.


Doctors typically treat heart failure using the use of a variety of drugs. Based on the symptoms you experience you may use one or more drugs for heart failure, such as:

Your doctor might have to adjust your dose often, particularly if you’ve just begun the new medication or your condition is deteriorating.

You could get admitted into a hospital when you are experiencing a flare-up in symptoms of heart failure. An inpatient hospital could receive additional medications that will aid in the improvement of your heart’s pumping and alleviate the symptoms. There is also the possibility of receiving an oxygen mask or small tube put in your nose. If you have severe heart disease, you could require supplemental oxygen for a prolonged period of time.

Other procedures or surgeries

Other procedures or surgeries to implant devices for the heart may be recommended to address the root cause that caused heart failure. The surgical or other treatments to treat heart failure could include:

End-of-life and palliative care

The doctor might suggest that you include palliative care in your treatment program. The term “palliative” refers to medical treatment that is focused on relieving the symptoms of your illness and improving your life quality. Anyone with a severe or life-threatening condition may benefit from palliative therapy in order to treat the ailments of illness, for example, breathlessness or pain or to alleviate adverse effects of treatment, for example, nausea or fatigue.

There is a chance that the heart problem could get worse to the point that medications stop functioning and a heart replacement or device may not be an alternative. If this happens you might require hospice treatment. Hospice care offers a particular treatment plan for those who are dying.

Hospice care permits family members and family members with the help of social workers, nurses, and specially trained volunteers to take care of and comfort the person they love at the home or in hospice homes. Hospice care offers social, emotional, and spiritual care for those suffering from illness and for those close to them.

Hospice care is offered at your home, as well in nursing facilities or assisted living facilities. For those who reside in a hospital setting, professionals in the field of end-of-life care will provide compassion, comfort, and respect.

While it may be challenging to talk about the end of your life with your loved ones and medical staff is crucial. A large portion of the discussion will likely include advance directives for care which is a broad term for written and oral instructions that you provide regarding the medical treatment you receive should you be unable to speak for yourself.

If you have an ICD, a crucial thing to talk about with your family and your doctor is whether the heart is necessary to turn off the device to ensure that it doesn’t send shocks that cause your heart to keep beating.


Lifestyle and home solutions to home

Lifestyle changes can assist in relieving symptoms and signs of heart failure, and also keep the condition from becoming worse. These modifications could prove to be the most significant and beneficial ones you could implement:

Support and Coping

Proper treatment for heart failure may help relieve symptoms and make it easier to live longer. Your doctor and you are able to work together to ensure that you are at ease. Take note of the way you feel and your body. Also, note how it feels and informs your doctor whether you’re feeling more or less. So your doctor can determine the best treatment for you.

These steps can aid you in managing heart failure:

Controlling heart failure requires open dialogue between your physician and you. Make sure you’re following the recommended eating habits, lifestyle, and medication. Your physician can often offer suggestions to help to stay on track and keep it that way.


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