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Heart failure definition and facts

  • The definition of heart failure is when the heart cannot pump efficiently enough blood to circulate oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. When the heart becomes weak or when it becomes thickened and stiff, the heart muscle cannot keep up with its workload.
  • Signs and symptoms of heart failure include
    • shortness of breath,
    • fatigue,
    • lightheadedness,
    • exercise intolerance,
    • coughing (or chronic cough),
    • wheezing,
    • pounding or racing heart,
    • excessive tiredness,
    • loss of appetite,
    • nausea,
    • confusion,
    • problems thinking,
    • swelling in the ankles, and
    • rarely, chest pain
    • Symptoms are usually worse at night when lying flat.
  • Risk factors for heart failure include high blood pressure, prior heart attack, obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, vitamin deficiencies, sleep apnea, heavy metal toxicity, eating an unhealthy diet (including animal fat and salt), and being sedentary.
  • The cause of heart failure is a weakened or thickened cardiac muscle. When risk factors for heart failure are present, there usually is inflammatory stress, which further damages the cardiac muscle depleting cells of energy and antioxidants.
  • There are four stages of heart failure, used to classify the severity of symptoms.
  • Heart failure treatment includes lifestyle and diet changes, taking medications, and sometimes implanting devices. Heart transplant may be needed in some cases.
  • Medications can help reduce the symptoms of congestive heart failure (CHF) and improve heart muscle function. Commonly prescribed medications for heart failure include beta-blockers, diuretics (water pills), ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors, and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers).
  • The prognosis for heart failure is highly variable. If lifestyle changes are not made, or medications are not taken, or the underlying causes are not correctable, heart failure can become a progressive and ultimately fatal condition.
  • Heart failure can be prevented and reversed by making healthier choices such as addressing stress, being active, eating well, getting enough nutrients, treating sleep apnea, and taking medications as prescribed.
Return to Heart Failure

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