Heart Failure Facts

When you hear the term “heart failure” you may think that the heart is going to stop at any moment.  Heart failure actually means that your heart isn’t pumping blood either because it isn’t properly filling with blood and/or it doesn’t have enough force to pump blood out of the heart entirely.

 Unlike a heart attack, heart failure doesn’t come on suddenly.  It’s the result of a long period of time when the heart gradually weakens.  It can involve only one side of the heart or both sides.  If it affects the right side of the heart, it affects how blood is pumped into the lungs.  Heart failure on this side causes the body to retain fluid in the feet and hands as well as some internal organs like the liver.

The left side of the heart controls how blood is pumped out to the rest of the body.  Heart failure on this side of the heart results in extreme fatigue and in shortness of breath.  In some cases, heart failure can occur on both sides and all of these symptoms are present.

People who have high blood pressure, have had a heart attack, or have an enlarged heart are at risk for heart failure.  Diabetes and heart murmurs can also be risk factors for heart failure.

If you have a family history of this illness, you need to make sure your doctor knows so that you can be tested regularly.  It’s important that you get diagnosed as early as possible so that treatment options can be more effective.  Treatment includes medication, nutritional changes, and physical activity.

Many people who are diagnosed with heart failure live a long time.  There are lifestyle changes such as decreasing the sodium in your diet, exercising, taking prescribed medications, and visiting with your physician often.

You also need to monitor your weight daily and talk with your healthcare provider about any major changes. This can indicate a fluid build up in the body.  Heart failure is becoming more common in the United States as people are having heart attacks at a high rate.

A heart attack may leave your heart weakened and unable to function at its original level.  Fortunately, with good medical care, you can live for a long time with heart failure and have a high quality of life.  If you’re diagnosed with heart failure, there’s no need to panic.  This doesn’t mean that your heart is going to stop beating immediately.  It simply means that it is weak.