Heart failure

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Heart failure is based on the heart function or side of the heart that is affected. It is important to note that in a normal heart, there is a fixed amount of blood that enters the heart and pumped out again in every heartbeat. If an individual has this condition, the heart could not cope with pumping the right amount of blood in every beat.

What are the main types of heart failure?

  • Systolic heart failure – the ventricles of the heart could not properly contract in every beat; thus, inadequate blood is pumped out of the heart.
  • Diastolic heart failure – this occurs if the ventricle could not be filled with enough blood as the heart rests in between every beat.

In some cases, a combination of both types can occur.

What are the causes?

Heart failure
Essentially, the left type results to shortness of breath especially during exertion or when lying flat in bed.

Coronary heart disease is the common cause of heart failure. If this condition is present, the flow of blood to the heart muscle is diminished by tapering of the coronary arteries that provide the heart muscle with oxygenated blood.

In some cases, the condition can develop after a heart attack. Remember that a heart attack is a complication of coronary heart disease that causes a region of the heart muscle to die. There is also the formation of scar tissue in the affected area. If the affected area is wide, more of the function of the heart is affected.

Other possible causes include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diseases affecting the heart muscle
  • Heart valve diseases
  • Certain forms of abnormal heart rhythms
  • Medications or chemicals that can damage the heart muscle such as cocaine, excessive alcohol and some forms of chemotherapy.
  • Various non-heart related conditions that affect the functioning of the heart

Indications of heart failure

The symptoms that might manifest depend on the type of heart failure the individual has. Essentially, the left type results to shortness of breath especially during exertion or when lying flat in bed. In most cases, the shortness of breath can be associated with cough.

The characteristic indication of right heart failure is swollen ankles and legs. This is brought about by the accumulation of additional fluid in the legs. In addition, the liver might enlarge as well.

Other symptoms of heart failure can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Feeling sick
  • Appetite loss

Depending on the underlying cause of the condition, there are also other symptoms such as chest pain if the individual has angina or palpitations if a heart rhythm disorder is present.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on heart failure is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage circulatory issues including heart failure, register for a first aid and CPR course with Victoria First Aid.

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