Harvard Heart Letter

Tales of two heart failures

Incidence of heart failure is split about evenly between two types. One is a problem with the pumping phase of each contraction. It is called systolic heart failure. The other is a problem during the refilling phase, called diastolic heart failure. In systolic heart failure, the heart muscle stretches out and weakens so that when the heart contracts, the proportion of blood pushed out is lower than it should be. People with diastolic heart failure have the opposite problem — the heart muscle is too rigid. It doesn't completely relax when at rest and so can't refill completely with blood. 
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