Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when disease, injury, or years of wear and tear interfere with the heart's ability to pump as effectively and efficiently as it should. When that happens, a cascade of physiological changes is set in motion. The end result is that many body parts don't get the blood flow that they need.

Although the term "heart failure" conjures up the catastrophe of a suddenly lifeless heart, the condition is better described as a gradual decline in the heart's ability to pump.

Think if it this way: Imagine your heart as the central warehouse of a nationwide delivery system. The trucking fleet is your blood, ferrying vital supplies (oxygen and nutrients) to all corners of your body and picking up waste. Your arteries and veins are superhighways and secondary roads connecting cities and towns (cells and tissues) along the way. When the system is operating at prime efficiency, a steady stream of cargo-laden vehicles leaves the central hub at a rapid clip every day. Once their freight is delivered, they pick up the next load and return to the central warehouse.

If the warehouse falters, freight-filled trucks jam the cargo bays. Others are stranded in remote locations, unable to make deliveries or pick-ups. Customers along the routes struggle to survive without fresh supplies.

Once a slow but sure death sentence, heart failure for many people is now a chronic condition that can be coped with thanks to advances in medications, the development of heart-assisting devices, and the possibility of heart transplants.

Heart Failure Articles

Viagra and Cialis for heart failure?

Drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction (Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra) may also help ease heart failure. These drugs cause arteries to relax, which could help a failing heart pump more effectively. A grant of $26.3 million to a Harvard team will be used to determine if these drugs (known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors) can help people with heart failure live longer and reduce heart failure-related hospitalizations. (Locked) More »

Heart problems from Z-Pak

The antibiotic azithromycin sometimes can trigger abnormal heart rhythms. Though uncommon, it is more likely to happen to people with heart failure, diabetes, or a previous heart attack. (Locked) More »

New knee helps your heart

Adults with osteoarthritis face lower odds of developing heart failure by having a total knee replacement. The procedure allows the recipients to exercise again, which can lead to better heart health. (Locked) More »

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.  (Locked) More »