Heart Failure
Heart Failure

Heart Failure What Is Heart Failure?

Doctor using stethoscope on African American patientHeart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is a condition that develops when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood for your body’s needs. This can happen if your heart can’t fill up with enough blood. It can also happen when your heart is too weak to pump properly. The term "heart failure" does not mean that your heart has stopped. However, heart failure is a serious condition that needs medical care.

More than 6 million adults in the United States have heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children can also have heart failure, but this health topic focuses on heart failure in adults.

Heart failure can develop suddenly (the acute kind) or over time as your heart gets weaker (the chronic kind). It can affect one or both sides of your heart. Left-sided and right-sided heart failure may have different causes. Most often, heart failure is caused by another medical condition that damages your heart. This includes coronary heart disease, heart inflammation, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, or an irregular heartbeat. Heart failure may not cause symptoms right away. But eventually, you may feel tired and short of breath and notice fluid buildup in your lower body, around your stomach, or your neck.

Heart failure can damage your liver or kidneys. Other conditions it can lead to include pulmonary hypertension or other heart conditions, such as an irregular heartbeat, heart valve disease, and sudden cardiac arrest.

Your doctor will diagnose heart failure based on your medical and family history, a physical exam, and results from imaging and blood tests.

Currently, heart failure is a serious condition that has no cure. However, treatment such as healthy lifestyle changes, medicines, some devices, and procedures can help many people have a higher quality of life. Visit the Living With section to learn more.

Visit The Heart Truth to learn about heart disease in women.

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