What Is Heart Failure?
An estimated 26 million people worldwide suffer from heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure.1 Heart failure means the heart cannot work efficiently – it is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the body’s needs. It can also cause blood to back up in the veins, in the lungs, legs or abdomen. A lack of oxygen causes the patient to be excessively tired and weak. The congestion of blood leads the body to retain water, which can result in shortness of breath, coughing, swelling in the legs, and fluid in the abdomen. Acute heart failure develops within a few hours or days, while chronic heart failure persists for weeks, months or years.
- Circulatory disorders such as coronary artery disease and arteriosclerosis
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Atrial fibrillation
- Heart muscle disease or inflammation of the heart
- A heart valve defect
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Other diseases and conditions including diabetes, anemia, fever and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Heart failure symptoms depend on the type and severity of the condition. They include:
- Not being able to exercise. At first, strenuous exercise or physical effort leads to exhaustion. Eventually everyday activities become increasingly exhausting. Ultimately the slightest effort causes fatigue. Patients with advanced heart failure feel exhausted at rest.
- A lack of energy, tiredness, fatigue
- Heart rhythm disturbances
- Water retention (edema), swollen legs and feet, fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
- Weight gain (due to water retention)
- Loss of appetite and abdominal swelling
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing and wheezing
- Difficulty breathing while lying down, needing to sleep in a sitting position
Heart failure therapy aims to reduce the heart’s workload, increase the patient’s ability to cope with symptoms and stress, and improve their quality of life. The heart failure’s causes must be detected and improved by:
- treating cardiovascular disease like coronary heart disease or a heart valve defect
- Lowering blood pressure
- Controlling blood sugar levels in diabetic patients
- Eliminating risk factors for cardiovascular disease including smoking, stress, alcohol abuse, excess weight or lack of exercise.
Patients are advised to lead a healthy life. Eat healthfully and exercise based on your fitness level. Weigh yourself daily to quickly detect and treat water retention. Find out more about the treatment options for heart failure here.