Heart Failure

Also called: CHF, Cardiac failure, Congestive heart failure, Left-sided heart failure, Right-sided heart failure

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. Heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. It means that your heart is not able to pump blood the way it should. It can affect one or both sides of the heart.

The weakening of the heart's pumping ability causes

  • Blood and fluid to back up into the lungs
  • The buildup of fluid in the feet, ankles and legs - called edema
  • Tiredness and shortness of breath

Common causes of heart failure are coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. It is more common in people who are 65 years old or older, African Americans, people who are overweight, and people who have had a heart attack. Men have a higher rate of heart failure than women.

Your doctor will diagnose heart failure by doing a physical exam and heart tests. Treatment includes treating the underlying cause of your heart failure, medicines, and heart transplantation if other treatments fail.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Symptoms of Heart Failure

The following features are indicative of Heart Failure:
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue and weakness
  • swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
  • rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • reduced ability to exercise
  • increased need to urinate at night
  • swelling of the abdomen
  • sudden weight gain from fluid retention
  • lack of appetite and nausea
  • difficulty concentrating
  • decreased alertness
  • coughing up pink and foamy mucus
It is possible that Heart Failure shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Heart Failure

The following are the most common causes of Heart Failure:
  • coronary artery disease
  • heart attack
  • high blood pressure
  • faulty heart valves
  • cardiomyopathy
  • myocarditis

Other Causes of Heart Failure

The following are the less common causes of Heart Failure:
  • congenital heart defects
  • heart arrhythmias
  • diabetes
  • hyperthyroidism
  • hypothyroidism
  • hemochromatosis
  • amyloidosis

Risk Factors for Heart Failure

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Heart Failure:
  • high blood pressure
  • coronary artery disease
  • heart attack
  • diabetes
  • use of some diabetic medications such as rosiglitazone and pioglitazone
  • sleep apnea
  • congenital heart defects
  • valvular heart disease
  • viruses
  • alcohol use
  • tobacco use
  • obesity
  • irregular heartbeats

Prevention of Heart Failure

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Heart Failure. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • avoid smoking
  • controlling certain conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes
  • staying physically active
  • eat heart-healthy foods
  • maintain a healthy bodyweight
  • reduce and manage stress

Occurrence of Heart Failure

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Heart Failure cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very common > 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Heart Failure most commonly occurs in the following age group:
  • Aged > 50 years

Common Gender

Heart Failure can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Heart Failure

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Heart Failure:
  • Blood tests: To check for N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide in blood
  • Chest X-ray: To see the condition of the lungs and heart
  • Electrocardiogram: To record the electrical activity of the heart
  • Echocardiogram: Produces the video image of the heart and diagnose heart failure
  • Stress test: To measure how the heart and blood vessels respond to exertion

Doctor for Diagnosis of Heart Failure

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Heart Failure:
  • Cardiologist

Complications of Heart Failure if untreated

Yes, Heart Failure causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Heart Failure is left untreated:
  • kidney damage or failure
  • heart valve problems
  • heart rhythm problems
  • liver damage

Procedures for Treatment of Heart Failure

The following procedures are used to treat Heart Failure:
  • Coronary bypass surgery: Allow blood to flow through the heart more freely
  • Heart valve repair or replacement: Removes the excess valve tissue and reconnects the valve leaflets
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT): Sends timed electrical impulses to both of the heart's lower chambers so that they pump efficiently
  • Heart transplant: To replace the diseased heart with a healthy donor heart

Medicines for Heart Failure

Below is the list of medicines used for Heart Failure:

Self-care for Heart Failure

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Heart Failure:
  • Stop smoking: Prevent the blood vessels from damage
  • Discuss weight monitoring with your doctor: Keeping weight in control lessens the heart failure chances
  • Check your legs, ankles and feet for swelling daily: Keep the check if the swelling worsens
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet: Keeps the heart healthy
  • Limit alcohol and fluids: Alcohol intake weaken the heart muscle and increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Heart Failure

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Heart Failure:
  • Chiropractic therapy: Helps in the stress management during the treatment
  • Deep-breathing exercises and meditation: Helps in dealing with the stress

Patient Support for Treatment of Heart Failure

The following actions may help Heart Failure patients:
  • Keep track of the medications you take: Don't stop taking any medications without talking to your doctor
  • Know your doctor's contact information: Keep your doctor's phone number, the hospital's phone number, and directions to the hospital or clinic on hand
  • Be careful about supplements: Prevents from worsening the condition

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Heart Failure.
Cardiac Rehabilitation
Heart Transplantation
Pacemakers and Implantable Defibrillators

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