Heart failure is a condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
Usually, this is because your heart muscle is too weak to “squeeze” out enough blood with each beat. But
heart failure can also happen when your heart gets stiff and can’t fill up with enough blood between each beat.
Heart failure is found most often in older people, but it can happen to anyone at any age. It’s a serious
condition — and also quite common. Many people with heart failure continue to have a full and active
life for many years after their diagnosis.
With heart failure, initial damage weakens the heart muscle. To compensate, your heart beats faster and enlarges (stretches or thickens) as shown in the image below. Over time, the heart muscle begins to wear out.
Symptoms of heart failure vary based on the type of heart failure you have. Common symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling very tired and weak
- Weight gain (from fluid buildup)
- Swollen ankles, feet, belly, lower back, and fingers
- Puffiness or swelling around the eyes
- Trouble concentrating or remembering
The main cause of heart failure (heart muscle damage and weakness) cannot be cured, but symptoms can be managed. Good treatment and self-care can help keep your symptoms from getting worse.
Heart failure can be caused by anything that damages and weakens the heart muscle. But for 4 out of every 10 people, there is no known cause. Smoking, kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea are all causes of heart failure. Here's more information about the most common known causes of heart muscle damage:
- Atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease): Atherosclerosis is when the arteries that supply your heart with blood become narrowed by fatty plaque buildup. This restricts the amount of oxygen your heart gets and weakens the muscle. It can also cause a heart attack, which can damage your heart even more.
- High blood pressure (hypertension): Poorly
controlled blood pressure makes your heart work
harder to pump blood throughout your body. Over
time, this extra work can wear out your heart and
lead to heart failure.
- Heart valve problems: Heart valves control the
one-way flow of blood through your heart. If valves
are damaged or abnormal, your heart has to work
harder to move blood throughout your body.
- Alcohol or drug abuse: Long-term use and abuse
of alcohol or drugs can severely weaken your heart
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