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

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 »

Don't delay if heart failure symptoms worsen

Paying attention to changes in your body can help prevent a recurrence of heart failure. Many people ignore these early warning signs. One thing that keeps many people from calling for help is that they don't recognize their symptoms as being related to their heart failure. If you have heart failure, call your doctor if you notice any of these signs: (Locked) More »

The hidden burden of high blood pressure

High blood pressure imposes an up-front burden in people who know they have it and who are working to control it. It adds to worries about health. It alters what you eat and how active you are. High blood pressure often requires you to take one or more pills a day, which can be a costly hassle. There are long-term consequences, too. High blood pressure contributes to the development of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney disease. Because of all the ways hypertension interferes with health, the average life span for people with it is five years shorter than it is for those with normal blood pressure.  (Locked) More »