BACKGROUND

The normal heart has strong muscular walls that pump blood out of the heart. Heart failure most often results from a weakening of the heart muscle. When the heart cannot pump enough blood to supply oxygen and nutrients that the body requires, symptoms of heart failure can occur.

These symptoms might include breathlessness, cough, weakness, fatigue, and swelling of the abdomen, legs and feet. Common causes of heart failure include a previous heart attack, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart valves, excessive alcohol use, viral infection, diabetes and an inherited or congenital heart condition (cardiomyopathy).

In one inherited form of cardiomyopathy, the heart is dilated due to weak muscle function, and heart failure will be the eventual problem. In another form, the heart muscle becomes abnormally thickened, and although it can pump well, the heart cannot relax between beats to allow adequate filling. This condition, called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, can also lead to late heart failure with similar symptoms, but the main concern is the risks for serious arrhythmias.

Patients with heart failure from any cause often have abnormal heart rhythms, which further reduce the heart’s ability to pump efficiently. These abnormal heart rhythms may increase the risk of sudden death.

Treatment of heart failure may include medication, lifestyle changes such as low salt diet and exercise, device implantation or surgery. Your doctor will recommend the appropriate therapy for you.

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