Advances in the treatment of heart failure

New treatments have turned heart failure into a condition that people can live with for many years.

Heart failure sounds immediate and total — like power failure. But heart failure — often called congestive heart failure — doesn't mean the heart suddenly stops. The term for that is cardiac arrest. Rather, it means that the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs because one or both ventricles (the heart's main pumping chambers) are not functioning properly. In many cases, they can't pump with enough force (systolic heart failure). In others, the problem is an inability to draw enough blood in (diastolic heart failure). Often the weakened heart is also contending with constricted arteries and veins so it must work that much harder to push blood through the circulatory system.

The hallmark symptoms are shortness of breath (dyspnea), fatigue, swelling in the extremities (peripheral edema), and collection of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion).

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