Heart Failure

Heart failure currently affects 5 million Americans, with 550,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. The condition is more common in women, African Americans, and those over 65. Heart failure doesn't mean the heart is about to stop working. Rather, it means that the heart has become weak and is having trouble pumping blood efficiently. Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and specialized care.

What Is Heart Failure?

Heart failure, which is also called "congestive heart failure" (or CHF), is one of the most common reasons why people over the age of 70 are hospitalized. An estimated 5 million people are affected by it in the United States.
 
The words "heart failure" make it sound like the heart has actually stopped working. But this isn't true. The heart is still beating, but it has become weak and has trouble pumping enough blood to keep up with your body's needs. This can cause extra fluid to get backed up in several places throughout your body. This process is called "congestion," and that's why this condition is called "congestive" heart failure.
 
Heart failure isn't a disease itself. Rather, it's a condition that develops as a result of other diseases or health problems.
 

How Heart Failure Progresses

Heart failure develops over time as the pumping action of the heart grows weaker. It can affect the left side, the right side, or both sides of the heart. Most cases involve the left side, where the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. With right-sided heart failure, the heart cannot effectively pump blood to the lungs, where the blood picks up oxygen.
 

What You Need to Know About Heart Failure

Key information about heart failure is as follows:
 
  • Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood throughout the body.
     
  • This does not mean that your heart has stopped or is about to stop working. But it does mean that your heart is not able to pump blood the way that it should.
     
  • Heart failure is a serious condition that develops over time as the pumping action of the heart grows weaker.
     
  • Heart failure is caused by other diseases or conditions that damage or overwork the heart muscle.
     
  • The leading causes of this condition are coronary artery disease (CAD), high blood pressure, and diabetes.
     
  • About 5 million people in the United States have heart failure. Each year, 550,000 people are diagnosed with this condition. It causes or contributes to about 300,000 deaths each year.
     
  • Heart failure can happen to anyone, but is more common in people over 65 years of age, among women, and in African Americans.
     
  • The most common symptoms are shortness of breath; feeling tired; and swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, and sometimes the abdomen (stomach).
     
  • An echocardiogram is the most useful test when diagnosing heart failure.
     
  • Treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and specialized care for those with severe forms of heart disease.
     
  • People with severe heart failure are frequently admitted to the hospital.
     
  • If you have a disease or condition that makes heart failure more likely, you may be able to prevent it by controlling or treating the disease or condition.
     
  • Heart failure usually cannot be cured, and you will likely have to take medication for the rest of your life. It is important that you understand your symptoms may get worse over time. As your symptoms worsen, you may not be able to do many of the things that you did before you had this condition.
     
  • If you have severe heart disease and symptoms at rest, you can expect your condition to get worse. It is important to discuss this with your family and also discuss your final treatment options with your doctor while you are still able to do so.
     
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Heart Failure Info

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