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What is heart failure?

Posted by CarePoint Health on May 20, 2015 11:00:00 AM

symptoms of heart failureIf you or a loved one has been diagnosed with heart failure, you may be wondering what this means. The word “failure” leads some to think the heart isn’t working at all, but this is not the case. Heart failure is actually a condition that has many levels of severity, and can usually be managed and controlled under the care of a cardiologist.

Heart failure means that your heart is not pumping enough blood for your body’s needs. It can result from a variety of conditions, including:

  • Coronary artery disease (this is the most common cause)
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart muscle diseases or heart valve problems
  • Having a past heart attack
  • Other conditions such as diabetes, sleep apnea, and obesity

What happens with heart failure

When your heart is unable to pump enough blood to your other organs, your body may respond by exhibiting some of the following behaviors:

  • Enlarging the heart. Your heart will enlarge its chambers in an effort to pump more blood in and out of them.
  • Thickening the heart muscle. When your heart has to work harder to pump blood, its muscle becomes thicker as a result of the extra strain.
  • A faster heartbeat. Your heart might start pumping more quickly to make up for the shortage of blood in the body.
  • Narrowing of blood vessels. Because there isn’t enough blood pumping through them, the blood vessels may narrow to keep the pressure high enough.
  • Pumping less blood to certain organs, such as the kidneys.

When these responses initially occur, you may not notice any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to see your physician for regular checkups and a discussion of your overall heart health. Eventually, your body’s responses will not work as well, and you may start to notice the effects of less blood pumping throughout your body.

Symptoms of heart failure

When your heart can’t keep up with your body’s demands for blood, you may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, which can occur during activity and while resting
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations, or a feeling of your heart racing

If you notice any of these symptoms, call your physician. Other conditions may cause similar symptoms, so an evaluation by your physician will help determine the cause and the best course of treatment.

Treating heart failure

There are many ways to help manage and control heart failure. Your cardiologist may recommend lifestyle changes, a specific diet, and/or medications. Follow your doctor’s advice carefully so you can lead the healthiest life possible. There are also surgical options for those who have specific heart problems that need to be corrected.

CarePoint Health offers state-of-the-art cardiovascular services, and is dedicated to helping patients prevent, manage, and overcome cardiovascular disease. To learn more about our cardiovascular care services, contact CarePoint Health at 1-877-791-7000 or request an appointment online at our website.

Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.

Topics: Heart health, Heart failure

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