What is Heart Failure?
Heart Disease

What is Heart Failure?

It’s estimated that around 110,000 Australians live with heart failure, but what exactly is heart failure, what causes it and what treatment options are available?

We aim to answer those questions and more in this blog.

What is Heart Failure?

In simple terms, heart failure happens when the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body is impaired. And as such, the body’s organs and muscles don’t receive enough blood, oxygen and nutrients.

There are several reasons why the heart may not pump blood properly, including that the muscle has become too weak or too stiff or that the heart is enlarged.

There are several conditions that can damage the heart and increase the risk of these impairments occurring. We explain more about this below.

Typically, heart failure is a chronic and serious condition. In some cases, it can be life-threatening.

Heart failure needs to be diagnosed by a qualified medical professional.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

Commonly reported symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. These symptoms may be reported when active or even when lying down flat.

When the blood is not pumping properly, it can back up and cause fluid build-up around the body, including within the lungs.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet and occasionally in the stomach
  • Rapid weight gain from fluid build-up
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Persistent cough

Heart Failure Causes

Common causes of heart failure include high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart attack.

Other causes include myocarditis or inflammation of the heart muscle, arrhythmias, also known as irregular heartbeats, heart valve disease or a congenital heart defect that was present at birth.

Some infections, medications and substance use such as alcohol excess also damage the heart and increase a person’s risk of heart failure.

Heart Failure Treatment

Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of a person’s heart failure symptoms.

It may include medication, a pacemaker, heart valve repair or replacement, and bypass surgery. Lifestyle changes and stress management techniques may assist in improving a person’s quality of life.

In more severe cases, a patient may require a heart transplant.

Heart Failure Research

There are several research groups at The Prince Charles Hospital whose members are working to uncover new medicines for heart failure and improve the quality of life for those with the condition. One which receives funding support from The Common Good is the Cardiovascular Molecular and Therapeutics Translational Research Group.

Click here to read more about their investigations.

To donate to vital heart disease research as part of our Big Hearted Christmas Appeal, click here.

Published: November 21, 2023

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