What Is Heart Failure?
The rise in occurrences of heart failure has left many people wondering exactly what is heart failure. Heart failure occurs as a result of the heart's inability to pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. This condition affects one or both sides of the heart and occurs in about 5.7 million people each year in the United States.
Types of Heart Failure Heart failure manifests itself in two forms: left-sided and right-sided heart failure. Left-sided heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump an adequate supply of oxygen-enriched blood to the body, resulting in fatigue and shortness of breath. Right-sided heart failure happens when the heart cannot pump an adequate amount of blood through the lungs to obtain oxygen, resulting in fluid buildup in the legs, ankles, feet, liver and abdomen.
Causes The three leading causes of heart failure are high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and diabetes. Other causes include disease of the heart muscle, disease of the heart valves, irregular heartbeats and congenital heart defects. Chemotherapy, thyroid disorders, alcohol abuse and HIV/AIDS are other less common causes of heart failure.
Treatment Treatment for heart failure focuses on treating the cause of the problem. Medications to reduce blood pressure, correct irregular heartbeat and control diabetes all factor into preventing heart failure. Physicians prescribe diuretics to decrease fluid buildup in the lungs and body tissues. Diet and lifestyle changes contribute to stop the progression of the heart failure and increase life span.
Prevention Following a healthy diet, quitting smoking, losing weight and doing a regular exercise regimen are ways to prevent the onset of heart failure, especially in those persons with high risk factors for the disease.