Heart failure is a serious health condition which affects almost 6 million Americans each year. While it’s more common in adults than children, heart failure can affect persons of all ages.
The name of the condition -- heart failure -- may be somewhat misleading since the heart doesn’t actually stop beating as with sudden cardiac arrest. Instead, the heart simply fails to adequately do to its job pumping the blood necessary to maintain the body.
When heart failure occurs, the heart may be unable to fill up with adequate supplies of blood. In some instances, the heart may be unable to pump hard enough to deliver blood to the rest of the body.
People with heart failure may experience one or both of these conditions. Heart failure may also occur in either the right-side or the left-side of the heart.
Heart failure is a serious medical condition that may cause shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling in lower extremities such as the legs, feet, or ankles, neck veins, liver, and abdomen. While many different conditions can contribute to heart failure, the most common causes are diabetes, hypertension or high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease.
There is no cure for heart failure. Because heart failure can permanently damage the heart muscle, it’s important to treat it as soon as possible and minimize the damage.
Heart failure is generally treated by first treating the underlying cause. In addition, heart failure-related symptoms are also treated with a goal of improving overall quality of life and increasing longevity.
Treatment options include lifestyle changes such as dietary changes, managing fluid intake, limiting alcohol, and managing risk factors for related conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Medications such as diuretics, also known as water pills, beta blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers, or aldosterone antagonists may also be prescribed. More severe cases may require a mechanical heart pump.
A heart transplant may be performed for end-stage heart failure.