Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its natural ability to pump enough blood through the body. Heart failure usually develops slowly, often over a number of years, as the heart gradually loses its pumping ability.
There are two main types of heart failure:
• Systolic heart failure occurs when the heart’s ability to contract begins to decline. The heart can’t pump with enough force to supply a sufficient amount of blood to the circulatory system. This may cause blood to come back into the heart causing the lungs to back up and cause fluid to leak into the lungs. This condition is known as pulmonary congestion.
• Diastolic heart failure occurs when the heart can’t relax. Therefore, the heart can’t fill properly with blood because the muscle has become stiff. Diastolic heart failure can also lead to pulmonary congestion.
Many individual’s hearts will lose some of its blood-pumping ability due to age. However, many other factors can lead to a loss of pumping ability, including:
• High cholesterol levels
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes and abnormal blood sugar levels
• Coronary heart disease
• Irregular heartbeat
• Muscle damage and/or scarring due to a heart attack
• Disorders that cause abnormal thickness or swelling of the heart
• Heart valve disorders
There are many symptoms associated with heart failure. However, none are specific to this disease only. Some common symptoms include:
• Shortness of breath—which results from excess fluid in the lungs
• Fatigue or becoming tired easily
• Fluid accumulation, which may cause swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen
• Persistent coughing, especially coughing that regularly produces mucus or pink, blood-tinged spit
There are several ways to treat heart failure. Talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you.