Heart failure is a chronic medical condition where the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. It can develop gradually over time due to various underlying conditions that weaken or damage the heart muscle, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disorders, or cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle).
There are two main types of heart failure:
- Systolic Heart Failure: In this type, the heart muscle becomes weakened and cannot contract effectively during each heartbeat, leading to a reduced ejection fraction (the percentage of blood pumped out of the heart with each beat).
- Diastolic Heart Failure: In diastolic heart failure, the heart muscle becomes stiff and cannot relax properly during each heartbeat, leading to impaired filling of the heart chambers and reduced cardiac output.
Common symptoms of heart failure include:
- Shortness of breath (especially during physical activity or when lying flat)
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen (edema)
- Persistent coughing or wheezing
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Increased need to urinate at night
Heart failure is typically diagnosed based on medical history, physical examination, imaging tests such as echocardiogram, and other diagnostic tests like blood tests and electrocardiogram (ECG).
Treatment for heart failure aims to improve symptoms, slow disease progression, and prolong life expectancy. It often involves a combination of medications (such as ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, diuretics, and others), lifestyle changes (such as dietary modifications, exercise, and weight management), and sometimes procedures or devices (such as implantable cardiac defibrillators or cardiac resynchronization therapy).
Managing heart failure requires ongoing medical care and monitoring to adjust treatment as needed and prevent complications. It’s important for individuals with heart failure to work closely with their healthcare team to optimize their treatment plan and maintain their quality of life.