What Is Heart Failure?
Heart failure does not mean the heart has stopped working. Rather, it means that the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. With heart failure, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs. The chambers of the heart may respond by stretching to hold more blood to pump through the body or by becoming stiff and thickened. This helps to keep the blood moving, but the heart muscle walls may eventually weaken and become unable to pump as efficiently. As a result, the kidneys may respond by causing the body to retain fluid (water) and salt. If fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, lungs, or other organs, the body becomes congested, and congestive heart failure is the term used to describe the condition.
Symptoms of heart failure are often due to “congestion,” but in some cases of moderate to severe systolic heart failure, symptoms can be due to the weak heart (or weak pumping action) without the presence of “congestion.”
Types of Heart Failure
- Systolic: heart failure occurs when the heart does not squeeze as well as it should, due to a weakened heart muscle.
- Diastolic: heart failure occurs when the heart squeezes well but cannot properly fill with blood because the muscle has thickened and has lost its ability to relax.
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Failure?
You may not have any symptoms of heart failure, or the symptoms may be mild to severe. Symptoms can be constant or can come and go. The symptoms can include:
- Congested lungs. Fluid backup in the lungs can cause shortness of breath with exercise or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying flat in bed. Lung congestion can also cause a dry, hacking cough or wheezing.
- Fluid and water retention. Less blood to your kidneys causes fluid and water retention, resulting in swollen ankles, legs, abdomen (called edema), and weight gain. Symptoms may cause an increased need to urinate during the night. Bloating in your stomach may cause a loss of appetite or nausea.
- Dizziness, fatigue, and weakness. Less blood to your major organs and muscles makes you feel tired and weak. Less blood to the brain can cause dizziness or confusion.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats. The heart beats faster to pump enough blood to the body. This can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
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- Losing or maintaining your weight
- Tracking your daily fluid intake
- Avoiding Alcohol
- Avoiding or limiting caffeine
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Being physically active
- Managing stress
- Keeping track
- Monitoring your blood pressure, learn to check it.
- Learn about your medications
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