When you have heart failure, your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. This happens because your heart is weakened by conditions or diseases that damage the heart muscle. Most of these conditions weaken your heart little by little, over a period of time. Here’s a summary of how heart failure can develop and progress.

  1. The heart muscle is weakened by conditions or diseases that damage your heart
  2. The heart’s pumping action becomes less efficient
  3. The body tries to compensate for the heart’s reduced pumping action in these ways:
    • Hormonal stimulation to the heart increases
    • The heart beats faster
    • The heart enlarges (Heart chambers stretch and get bigger, and the muscle mass may increase in size)
  4. For a time, these adaptations will help continue normal or near normal heart function. But, sooner or later, these adjustments can actually make matters worse by putting extra strain on your heart.
  5. Eventually the muscle will begin to wear out and become even less efficient at pumping the blood your body needs. Heart failure symptoms - such as shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, and fluid buildup - may begin or worsen.

Poor Squeeze vs. Poor Relaxation

Heart failure occurs for two different reasons:

  • Usually heart failure occurs because your heart isn’t pumping effectively - you have “poor squeeze,” or systolic heart failure.
  • In some cases, the heart can still pump effectively - but the muscle walls have stiffened, which prevents the heart from fully relaxing and filling with enough blood between contractions. This condition is called diastolic heart failure.

With both types of heart failure, your heart can’t deliver enough blood to your body. This can interfere with the function of other major organs, and produce a range of symptoms throughout your body.

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