Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to support other organs in the body. Heart failure is a serious condition, but it doesn’t mean that the heart has stopped beating. Although it can be a serious disease, heart failure is not a death sentence and treatment is now better than ever. 

When this happens, blood and fluids can return to the lungs (congestive heart failure), and some parts of the body don’t get enough oxygen-rich blood to function normally. These problems lead to heart failure symptoms. Heart failure develops because the heart muscle weakens or loses its ability to pump normally. The ejection fraction (EF) is a percentage that allows us to know how the heart contracts (the normal is 55-70%). If your heart doesn’t “squeeze” well enough to supply enough blood to your body, you have heart failure with a low ejection fraction (EF <40%). If your heart cannot “relax” to fill enough blood between contractions, you have heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (EF> 50%). Weakening and damage to the heart muscle is often called cardiomyopathy, which literally means “heart muscle disease”. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 6.2 million adults have heart failure. Heart failure and cardiologist both are expensive. The costs are mostly related to hospital stays. With optimal medications and involvement in care, unnecessary hospitalizations can be avoided. 

Heart failure symptoms 

Heart failure interferes with the normal function of the kidneys by removing excess sodium and waste products from the body. In congestive heart failure, the body retains more fluid, but not all heart failure patients retain fluid. These are the symptoms of heart failure: 

  • Difficulty breathing during daily activities.
  • Having shortness of breath when lying down or sleeping.
  • Weight gain with swelling of the feet, legs, ankles or stomach.
  • General feeling of tiredness or weakness.

What are the causes of heart failure? Heart failure is often caused by other conditions, such as atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack, high blood pressure, heart valve problems, genetics, and alcohol or drug abuse. Sometimes the damage occurs for no known reason. This is called idiopathic cardiomyopathy (idiopathic means “no known cause”) and with this many find that heart failure is family.

Risk factors for heart failure 

Health conditions that are not recognized or treated will increase the lifelong risk of developing heart failure. Some of these diseases include: 

  • Coronary heart disease (the most common type of heart disease) and heart attacks 
  • high blood pressure 
  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity 

Unhealthy behaviors can also increase the risk of heart failure, especially for people who have any of the diseases listed above. Unhealthy behaviors include: 

  • Smoking or using tobacco 
  • Use of illegal drugs, such as methamphetamines or even excessive alcohol consumption. 
  • Eat foods that are high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. 
  • Not getting enough physical activity 

Treatment of heart failure 

Cardiologists using Nightingale Cardiology Services, combine care and compassion with investigations, research, treatment options and prevention programs to produce the best cardiac outcomes for you.

Early diagnosis and treatment can improve the quality and length of life of people with heart failure. Treatment usually involves taking medications, daily physical activity, and reducing the salt or sodium you eat in your diet. People with heart failure should monitor their weight and symptoms every day so they can discuss these symptoms with their healthcare team.

Control of heart failure is a treatment strategy that can improve heart function, reduce symptoms, and extend life. The strategy combines several treatments, including lifestyle changes, medications, and heart procedures. The last few years have been exciting to have new drugs that we can offer to patients with weak heart muscle. These are in addition to our other well-proven medications that can really help improve heart function in many people, reduce hospitalizations, and improve survival in heart failure.

Some heart failure patients may need surgery or procedures to open blocked heart arteries or open heart surgery. They may need heart valve repair or replacement. Many often need procedures to reduce heart rhythm abnormalities. Some patients with advanced heart failure may need a heart transplant or a mechanical heart pump. 


living with heart failure 

There are five things patients diagnosed with heart failure should do every day at home to manage their heart failure. The following acronym MAWDS can help you remember and follow these basic steps: 

Medications: Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor and heart care team, let them know if you don’t tolerate your medications and won’t go without them. Activity: Stay active every day, do what you can to keep your body strong.

Weight – Weigh yourself every day, recognize when changes in your weight mean you are holding onto more fluids.

Diet: Follow your diet, this means low salt content (<2 grams per day) and limit your fluid intake (<2 liters per day).

Symptoms: You recognize your symptoms and know when to call for help.