Heart failure (HF) is the clinical syndrome which is characterized by the inability of the heart to pump blood at an output sufficient to meet the requirements of metabolizing tissues or to do so only at abnormally elevated diastolic pressures or volumes.
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
- Increased need to urinate at night
- Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)
- Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention
- Lack of appetite and nausea
- Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
- Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
- Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you think you might be experiencing signs or symptoms of heart failure. Seek emergency treatment if you experience any of the following:
Fainting or severe weakness
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat associated with shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting
Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
Type of heart failure
- Left-sided heart failure: Fluid may back up in your lungs, causing shortness of breath
- Right-sided heart failure: Fluid may back up into your abdomen, legs and feet, causing swelling.
- Systolic heart failure : The left ventricle can’t contract vigorously, indicating a pumping problem.
- Diastolic heart failure
(also called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction) : The left ventricle can’t relax or fill fully, indicating a filling problem.
Risk factors include:
High blood pressure. Your heart works harder than it has to if your blood pressure is high.
Coronary artery disease. Narrowed arteries may limit your heart’s supply of oxygen-rich blood, resulting in weakened heart muscle.
Heart attack. A heart attack is a form of coronary disease that occurs suddenly. Damage to your heart muscle from a heart attack may mean your heart can no longer pump as well as it should.
Diabetes. Having diabetes increases your risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Some diabetes medications.
Sleep apnea. The inability to breathe properly while you sleep at night results in low blood oxygen levels and increased risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Both of these problems can weaken the heart.
- Congenital heart defects. Some people who develop heart failure were born with structural heart defects.
Valvular heart disease. People with valvular heart disease have a higher risk of heart failure.
- A viral infection may have damaged your heart muscle.
- Alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol can weaken heart muscle and lead to heart failure.
- Tobacco use. Using tobacco can increase your risk of heart failure.
- People who are obese have a higher risk of developing heart failure.
- Irregular heartbeats. These abnormal rhythms, especially if they are very frequent and fast, can weaken the heart muscle and cause heart failure.
- Kidney damage or failure
- Heart rhythm problems
- Heart valve problems
- Liver damage
The key to preventing heart failure is to reduce your risk factors. You can control or eliminate many of the risk factors for heart disease — high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, for example — by making lifestyle changes along with the help of any needed medications.
Lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent heart failure include:
- Controlling certain conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
- Staying physically active
- Eating healthy foods
- Maintaining a healthy weight reducing and managing stress