Heart Failure

Your Care Explained > Conditions and Diagnoses : Heart Failure

Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a condition in which the heart’s pumping action is weakened and it cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the needs of the body’s other organs.

Women tend to develop heart failure later in life than men do and are more likely to have shortness of breath, difficulty exercising and swollen ankles than are men with heart failure. Nevertheless, women with heart failure survive longer than men with the same condition.

Heart failure interferes with the kidneys’ normal function of eliminating excess sodium and waste from the body. In congestive heart failure, the body retains more fluid, resulting in swollen ankles and legs. Fluid also collects in the lungs, resulting in shortness of breath. Heart failure may affect either the right ventricle, which pumps blood into the lungs for oxygenation, or the left ventricle, which pumps oxygenated blood to the body’s tissues. In either case, the ventricle may not contract strongly enough to expel most of the blood it holds, or it may be too stiff to relax adequately between contractions and thus won’t fill completely. It is usually a symptom or result of one or more of the following conditions:

Symptoms of Heart Failure

The symptoms of heart failure vary according to the severity of the disease and may resemble other conditions or medical problems. They usually include one or more of the following:

Diagnosing Heart Failure

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, a combination of any of the following may be used to determine whether symptoms are due to heart failure:

Treating Heart Failure

Therapy for heart failure is designed to reduce symptoms and forestall the progress of the disease. Heart failure treatment may include:

Nutrition and Prevention

Reference these links for information on how to prevent heart disease and how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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