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

ACE inhibitors after bypass surgery

Blood vessel–dilating angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are important to the length and quality of life in people with heart disease or hypertension. Doctors do not agree, however, on the value of these drugs in people undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting. (Locked) More »

Choosing options for life-sustaining care

If you have a serious, chronic disease like heart failure, making decisions in advance about important aspects of your treatment can help ensure your wishes are followed. This can include delineating preferences about life-sustaining measures on a form that becomes a doctor’s order, and naming a legal representative to make medical decisions on your behalf, if needed.   (Locked) More »

Treatments for heart failure

  People with heart failure with low ventricular ejection fraction have a heart too weak to meet their body’s demand for oxygenated blood during daily activity. Clinical trials have confirmed that several medications and devices can help many of these people live longer and enjoy a better quality of life. But this doesn’t mean that all therapies are right for everyone. In general, all will benefit from a beta blocker plus an ACE inhibitor or an ARB, and many will need a diuretic. Other medications and devices are likely to benefit only certain individuals.   More »

Yet another risk of heart failure

Heart failure can be a difficult diagnosis to accept, since the disease can lead to significant health complications and poor quality of life. And while depression is more common in women with HF, a new study finds that the severity of the depression is much greater in men with HF. There is also growing evidence that depression can worsen heart disease. Depression may cause a person to stop taking medicine, exercising, or eating properly, which may hurt heart health. So depression after a diagnosis of HF can lead to a downward spiral. That’s why it’s so important for depression to be recognized. (Locked) More »

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 »