What is Heart Failure? – Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

Approximately 6 million Americans are currently living with heart failure; every year, over 870,000 new cases are diagnosed. In fact, heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is the leading reason for hospitalization among individuals over the age of 65.

Despite being common, many people still have no understanding of what heart failure is or how it develops. This article will delve into the types, causes, symptoms, and risk factors of heart failure, giving you a comprehensive understanding of this condition and how to manage it best.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a long-term illness that arises when the heart cannot pump sufficient blood to support the needs of the body.

Contrary to what the term suggests, congestive heart failure refers to a heart not functioning at its optimal capacity, leading to a reduced ability to pump blood. As a result, your organs may be compromised, and fluid may be accumulated in your lungs.

Exercise, medication, and maybe surgery are all a part of the treatment process for heart failure. Your outlook is influenced by various factors, including how well you care for yourself.

Types of Heart Failure

1.   Left-sided heart failure

Your heart’s lower left chamber enlarges and cannot contract forcefully enough to provide oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. As a result, breathing difficulties could result from a fluid buildup in the lungs. This is also called congestive heart failure.

2.   Systolic heart failure

It is a distinct type of cardiac failure that develops in the heart’s left ventricle. A pumping issue is apparent when the left ventricle cannot contract forcefully.

3.   Diastolic Heart Failure

The left heart chamber cannot relax or fill in this type of heart failure, indicating a filling issue.

4.   Right-sided heart failure

It indicates that the heart’s right side is not delivering blood to the lungs as effectively as it should. Swelling could result from fluid backing up into the legs, foot, and abdomen.

What are Heart Failure symptoms?

Heart failure symptoms can be either acute (come suddenly and disappear fairly fast) or chronic (continue and worsen over time).

Some of the common symptoms of heart failure are:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Chest pain if heart failure results from a heart attack
  • Exercise intolerance
  • A lack of appetite and nausea
  • Legs, feet, and ankles swelling
  • Persistent wheezing or coughing
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Rapid weight gain due to fluid accumulation
  • Having trouble focusing or being less alert

Heart Failure Causes?

Coronary artery disease, a condition that results in the narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart with blood and oxygen, is the most typical cause of heart failure.

The following conditions may also increase your risk of developing heart failure:

  • Heart attack
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Heart valve disease
  • Arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms
  • Congenital heart disease

Causes of acute heart failure include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Severe infections
  • Viruses that attack the heart muscle
  • Use of certain medications
  • Blood clots in the lungs

Other Risk Factors

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Untreated sleep apnea
  • Smoking or Tabacco abuse
  • An overactive or underactive thyroid
  • Certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy
  • Substance misuse .i.e, alcohol
  • Diabetes
  • HIV

What is Heart Failure prevention?

Reducing your risk factors is the key to preventing heart failure. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking the medications your doctor has prescribed can reduce or eliminate many heart disease risk factors.

You can prevent heart failure by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Maintaining an active lifestyle
  • Being healthy in terms of weight
  • No smoking
  • Managing and reducing stress
  • Eating nutritious food
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Managing some illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure