What Is Heart Failure

What is heart failure ? Heart failure is a disease which occurs due to the insufficient capacity of the heart to pump blood efficiently, resulting in reduced blood supply and accumulation of blood in the lungs and veins.

  • Heart failure may be caused by several heart disorders.
  • Symptoms of heart failure may be absent initially but over a period of time, shortness of breath and fatigue develops.
  • Heart failure is often noticed by doctors from the symptoms, but diagnostic tests such as an ECG (echocardiography) help to assess the function of the heart.
  • Treatment includes drugs and surgical interventions to treat the cause of the heart failure as well as its effects. life style changes are also prescribed to the patients

Heart failure is not limited to any age group, but is more prevalent in older people, who may have developed several heart disorders such as damaged heart valves and muscles. Ageing of the heart makes it less efficient. General increase in the life span has made heart failure a very common. Other high risk factors are lifestyle issues and diseases such as smoking, diet high in fats, diabetes and high blood pressure. Children born with congenital heart defects are also prone to heart failure.

Heart failure is a very complex condition. It does not mean that the heart has completely stopped, but that heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demand for blood supply.

The heart works like a pump, pushing fluid out of one place and into the next. Blood is pumped out when the heart muscle contracts (systole), and during diastole, when the heart muscle relaxes, the chambers of the heart get filled up with blood. Heart failure occurs when the heart muscles are weak and cannot pump blood with enough force. Also, if the muscles have lost their tone and have become stiff, heart loses the ability to return to relaxed condition after each contraction, causing blood accumulation and congestion in the tissues. So, heart failure is sometimes known as congestive heart failure.

Generally both sides of heart are involved in a heart failure but often one side could be more defective than the other. The left side of the heart pumps blood from the lungs into the arteries. When the blood coming to the left side of the heart gets accumulated and it causes congestion in the lungs resulting in breathing difficulty, this condition can be called left sided heart failure.

The right side of the heart pumps blood from the veins into the lungs and when there is congestion, blood accumulates in the tissues and veins of other body parts, causing swelling of the legs and fluid accumulation in the liver. This can be termed right sided heart failure.

When blood supply is inadequate due to heart failure, the tissues become starved of oxygen and nutrients normally supplied by blood. This makes the muscles in the limbs tire quickly and the person feels fatigued at the slightest exertion. When the heart does not pump blood with enough force, the kidneys become unable to filter excess fluid and waste products from the blood into the urine. This increases the volume of circulating fluid in the body, giving more exertion to heart making the situation worse.

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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