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What You Need To Know

So, you or a loved one has heart failure. What exactly does this mean?

While tests and treatments are different for each patient, here are some common facts that will help you understand the condition better.

Heart failure is:

  • A condition that occurs when your heart has trouble pumping enough blood through your body. Despite its name, heart failure does not mean your heart has stopped working or is about to stop working.
  • Caused by conditions and diseases that damage the heart muscle, including coronary artery disease (when arteries are blocked), heart attack, diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart valve disease.
  • A condition that affects about 6.5 million adults in the United States. Heart failure is rising in adults under 65 of age.
  • One of the main causes of hospitalization for people over age 65.
  • A chronic condition. That means it is an illness that may never go away. Taking action early will help you better understand and learn to manage your disease, so you can live a full life.
  • Treated by a cardiologist. This doctor specializes in diseases and problems of the heart and blood vessels. Heart failure can be treated, and there are things you can do to feel better.

When you have heart failure, your heart has to work harder than usual. Over time, your heart gets tired and can no longer pump as well as it used to. "Congestive" heart failure is a stage of heart failure when fluid that builds up around your heart and causes problems with the way your heart pumps blood. Fluid can also be found in your lungs, hands and ankles.

Heart failure usually begins on a patient's left side, which is home to the heart's main pumping chamber.

The condition can cause shortness of breath, tiredness, swelling, coughing, weight gain and increased urination – especially at night.

There are two types of heart failure:

  • Diastolic – Your heart is too stiff. Its left ventricle (one of the two lower chambers of the heart) isn't relaxing or filling fully as it should be.
  • Systolic – Your heart is too weak. Its left ventricle isn't forcefully closing as it should be.

Cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating heart failure and can help patients improve their quality of life. Learn more about our cardiologists.