What is heart failure? Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatments

What is heart failure? Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatments

Heart failure is a condition that makes it hard for your heart to pump enough blood throughout your body. When this happens, you may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath and swelling in your arms and legs.

Treatments for heart failure include medications and lifestyle changes that can help you lead a longer, healthier life. Your doctor will work with you to decide which treatments are right for you.


Heart failure occurs when the heart doesn’t pump blood effectively. This can happen due to a number of problems.

One of the main causes of heart failure is damage to the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to your heart (coronary artery disease). The arteries can become blocked or severely narrowed.

Another cause is damage to the heart muscle itself. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including infections, alcohol or drug abuse, and high blood pressure.

Age also increases the risk of heart failure. The arteries that supply the heart may weaken and stiffen as you get older.

Many other conditions can cause or increase your risk of developing heart failure, including obesity, anaemia, drinking too much alcohol, and a high pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Medications used to treat certain health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, can help manage heart failure symptoms.


Heart failure occurs when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. This can be caused by a number of factors, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart valve problems.

Heart failure symptoms can vary from person to person and may come and go. However, the main signs are feeling tired (fatigue) and swollen ankles and legs.

Swelling in your feet, legs and abdomen can indicate fluid accumulation or edema. You may also experience shortness of breath, which is caused by fluid backing up in your lungs.

Your doctor will help you manage your condition by monitoring your symptoms and taking the right medicines to treat it. This will include following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, limiting salt in your diet and stopping smoking.

Risk factors

Heart failure is a disease that may be caused by many factors. These include lifestyle, age, gender, and genetics.

People with diabetes and high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart failure. This is because high blood sugar damages your blood vessels, making them narrow and more prone to damage.

If you have these risk factors, talk to your doctor about treatment options. These may include medications and diet changes.

Having a healthy weight, getting regular exercise and not smoking can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and other heart problems. 

The most important risk factor for heart failure is hypertension (high blood pressure). It is best to have your systolic and diastolic blood pressure checked regularly. It is especially important to have your systolic pressure down to 115/75 mmHg or lower if you are over 50.


Heart failure can be treated with medicines, changes in lifestyle and other treatments. Your treatment plan will depend on your symptoms, medical history and what caused the heart failure.

Your doctor will start by doing a physical exam and listening to your heart. Then, your doctor may order some tests to help diagnose the cause of your symptoms.

The most common test is an echocardiogram (echo). This noninvasive procedure uses sound waves to evaluate the motion of your heart’s chambers and valves.

It can also be used to measure your ejection fraction, which is the percentage of blood that is pumped out with each heartbeat. It can help your doctor determine if you have systolic or diastolic dysfunction and if you need medication or surgery.

Your doctor may prescribe several different types of medicine to treat your symptoms and make it easier for your heart to pump. These medicines include angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers, or ARBs, and diuretics, or “water pills.”