Overview of Heart Failure

Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can't pump enough blood to meet your body's needs. It frequently involves congestion (blood and fluids backing up in your system). Key symptoms may include shortness of breath, a dry and hacking cough, weight gain, swelling, and fatigue.

Heart failure develops because the heart muscle becomes weak or loses the ability to pump correctly. If the heart is not "squeezing" well to get enough blood to your body, you have systolic heart failure. If the heart can't "relax" to fill with enough blood between contractions, you have diastolic heart failure.

Heart failure is often caused by other conditions, such as atherosclerosis, heart attack, high blood pressure, heart valve problems, and alcohol or drug abuse. Heart muscle weakening and damage is often called cardiomyopathy, which literally means "heart muscle disease." Sometimes the damage occurs for no known reason. This is called idiopathic cardiomyopathy (idiopathic means "no known cause").

heart-failure
With heart failure, initial damage weakens the heart muscle. To compensate, your heart beats faster and enlarges (stretches or thickens). Over time, the heart muscle begins to wear out.

Heart Failure In Depth

Learn more about heart failure from Intermountain's Patient Education Library:

Treatments for Heart Failure

Your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. Possible treatments for heart failure include:

  • Heart Failure Management

    Heart failure management is a multi-disciplinary approach to all components of heart failure (medications, lifestyle changes, procedures, etc.) to idealize patients' functional capacity and survival.

  • Pacemakers and ICDs

    Pacemakers and ICDs are device implants that correct abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and help your heart beat more efficiently.

  • Heart Transplantation

    Heart transplant surgery includes the replacement of a severely diseased or malformed heart with a new heart from a human organ donor.

  • Ventricular Assist Devices

    A ventricular assist device is a battery-operated, mechanical pump that is surgically implanted. It helps maintain the pumping ability of a heart that can't effectively work on its own.

Learn about Heart Failure

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Heart Failure and Physical Activity

If you have heart failure, you may wonder if physical activity is good for you. How could putting more strain on your heart and making it work harder be a good thing? The heart is a muscle, and like o...

Heart Failure: Breathe More Easily

One of the earliest symptoms of heart failure is shortness of breath. When your heart can't function well enough to pump the blood out of your heart, this causes blood to back up in the blood vessels ...

Clinical Guidelines for Heart Failure

To receive the best care for heart failure, talking frankly with your health care team is a good place to start. It’s also helpful to know about a resource published by health experts that outlines tr...

Heart Failure: Getting the Care You Need

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with heart failure, you probably have a lot of questions. What can I expect from treatment? What can I do to manage the condition? What kind of care will be ne...

Heart Failure: After Hospitalization

Being in the hospital for heart failure can be a difficult and frightening experience. Once you’re back at home, you may worry about your health. Here’s how you can stay healthy and prevent the proble...

Tracking Symptoms of Heart Failure

If you have heart failure (HF), becoming aware of even small changes in your body can help you manage your condition. Here are common symptoms of heart failure: Fluid retention. You may notice swellin...

Learn about Heart Care

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What is Atrial Fibrillation?

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