Know About Heart Failure

15 February, 2022

Know About Heart Failure


Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle doesn't pump blood as it should. When this happens, blood often backs up and fluid builds up in the lungs, causing shortness of breath.

Heart failure can be life-threatening. People with heart failure may have severe symptoms wherein some may need a heart transplant or a ventricular assist device (VAD).

Heart failure can affect the right or left side of your heart or both at the same time. It can be either an acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing) condition.

One way to prevent heart failure is to prevent and control conditions that can cause heart failure such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Proper treatment can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising, reducing salt (sodium) in diet and managing stress can improve the quality of life.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Heart failure can be ongoing (chronic), or it may start suddenly (acute).

Heart failure signs and symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath also called as dyspnea, while performing some physical activity or when the condition worsens
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Palpitations
  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged mucus
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
  • Chest Heaviness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Chronic Heart Failure
  • Nausea and lack of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness

Some specific symptoms which cannot be neglected

Heart failure can happen to anyone. However, certain factors may increase your risk of developing this condition. Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea means sudden shortness of breath during sleep, feeling tired, breathlessness while doing routine / daily activities indicates damage caused to the heart. In such cases immediate doctor’s attention is required followed by timely treatment.

People with specific diseases that damage the heart are also at an increased risk. These conditions include hypertension, diabetes, anemia, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and valve disease.

Certain behaviours can also increase the risk of developing heart failure like:

  • Smoking
  • Eating foods that are high in fat or cholesterol
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Being overweight or obese

Conditions That Can Damage Or Weaken Heart And Cause Heart Failure Are :
  • Coronary artery disease : Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease. This disease results from the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, which reduces blood flow and can lead to the heart attack.

  • High blood pressure : When the blood pressure is high, pressure builds upon the heart. It has to work more harder than normal to circulate blood throughout the body. This extra exertion can make heart muscles too stiff or too weak to pump blood.

  • Heart valve disorders :  A damaged valve due to a heart defect puts pressure on the heart and gradually weakens with time.

  • Heart muscle disorders :  Heavy alcohol use, toxic effect of drugs, infection, usage of some chemotherapeutic drugs can cause damage to heart muscles. Genetic factors also play an important role.

Some Other Causes of Heart Failure Are :
  • MYOCARDITIS (Inflammation of the heart muscle) - Myocarditis is most commonly caused by a virus and can lead to left-sided heart failure.

  • Source – Google Images

  • CONGENITAL HEART DEFECT -  If the heart and its chambers or valves aren’t formed correctly, the healthy parts of the heart have to work harder to pump blood, which may lead to heart failure.

  • Source – Google Images

  • ARRHYTHMIAS (Abnormal heart rhythms) - Abnormal heart rhythms may cause the heart to beat too fast or slow which may lead to heart failure.

  • Source – Google Images

  • Other diseases -  Long-term diseases such as Diabetes, Thyroid related disorders, Anemia may contribute to chronic heart failure.

Complications of Heart Failure :-

If heart failure is not diagnosed at the right time and not treated, person may face complications, such as,

1. Kidney Damage

2. Liver Damage

3. Heart Valve Disorders

4. Heart Arrhythmias

Diagnosis of Heart Failure


Doctor may go for a physical examination like looking for leg swellings, irregular heart rate which would help in diagnosing heart failure.


This test can provide images of the heart and the surrounding organs.


An echocardiogram is the most effective way to diagnose heart failure. It helps the doctor to evaluate any damage caused to the heart.


This test can detect a rise in B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) hormone, which can be an indication of heart failure.

Other Additional Tests Which Can Be Performed Are:

CARDIAC MRI – This test is performed to know the exact reason for heart failure by doing a detailed evaluation.

CORONARY ARTERIAL ANGIOGRAPHY – This test helps in knowing the blockages in the arteries.

How Is Heart Failure Treated?

Treating heart failure depends on the severity and the type of heart failure one has.

Important instructions to be followed strictly are 1) Salt restricted diet, 2) Fluid restriction – Patients are instructed to limit their fluid intake to avoid retention of excess fluid in the heart and 3) Avoidance of physical activity so that there is less pressure on functioning of the heart.

Early treatment can improve symptoms fairly quickly, but one should still get regular testing and follow up with consulting doctor every 3 to 6 months.

Treatment of heart failure may include one or more of the following:

  • Medication
  • Bypass Surgery
  • Percutaneous Coronary Interventionn
  • A Pacemaker
  • An Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
  • Transplant Surgery


These medicines are prescribed to:

  • Improve your heart’s ability to pump blood
  • Reduce blood clots
  • Remove excess sodium and replenish potassium levels
  • Reduce cholesterol levels
  • Reduce adverse hormones and reactions that occur in the body that can make the heart weaker

Treating on time can significantly improve the quality of life and lifespan can be extended too.

In some patients, heart failure caused due to artery blockage can be treated by Angioplasty and CABG – CORONARY ARTERY BYPASS GRAFT SURGERY.

Some patients suffering from valve disorders are advised Valve Repair or Valve Replacement as per the condition of heart failure.

In some patients VAD – Ventricular Assist Device procedure is performed and in some cases Heart Transplant is performed.

Preventive Measures of Heart Failure

Some lifestyle measures can help treat heart failure and prevent the condition from developing.

Maintaining a moderate weight and exercising regularly can significantly decrease the risk of heart failure. Reducing the amount of salt in your diet can also lower your risk.

Other habits that may prevent heart failure include:

  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking
  • Having a controlled diet by avoiding fatty foods
  • Getting the right amount of sleep
  • Staying active by doing workouts, reducing stress.

It’s very important to take timely measures against heart failure. Regular follow up, doing physical activities and getting investigations done at the right time will always help in managing and leading a peaceful life.

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