Heart failure is a condition where the heart cannot pump blood around the body efficiently1. This is because the heart, a muscle that squeezes and relaxes with each heartbeat, becomes too weak or too stiff to work properly1. When this weakness or stiffness occurs, the heart can’t contract with enough force, or fill with enough blood and as a result, less blood is pumped around the body2. This can lead to problems in other parts of the body as the organs and muscles don’t receive enough oxygen and nutrients2.
The term ‘heart failure’ is perhaps in itself misleading. The heart has not stopped working; it just needs a little extra help1. Although it’s a long-term condition that cannot be cured (except in the case of heart transplant), making positive lifestyle changes can help people with heart failure to better manage their condition1.
You may have also heard heart failure referred to as congestive heart failure, but that term is not frequently used.
The main symptoms of heart failure are3:
Click here for more information on what causes these heart failure symptoms.
Heart failure occurs when other conditions and factors weaken or stiffen your heart; ultimately making it harder for you heart to pump blood around the body, these can include4:
Doctors may use a number of tools to diagnose heart failure, including4:
Learn more about these tools and tests here.
In the early stages of heart failure, symptoms are often minimal and people may not notice a significant effect on how they’re feeling. However, symptoms do progress so if you’re diagnosed with heart failure it’s really important you’re proactively managing the condition before things get worse6.
People with heart failure can often continue to lead normal lives for as long as possible by controlling the symptoms and slowing down the progression of the condition2.
Treatment options include1:
It is important to talk to your doctor about available treatment options, as very often ways of managing the condition will change as it progresses4. Your doctor can help if you are having trouble taking your medicines or understanding when and how to take them.
More about understanding your treatment.