Heart Failure

Heart failure (HF), often called congestive heart failure (CHF) or congestive cardiac failure (CCF), occurs when the heart is unable to provide sufficient pump action to maintain blood flow to meet the needs of the body. Heart failure can cause a number of symptoms including shortness of breath, leg swelling and exercise intolerance. The condition is diagnosed by patient physical examination and confirmed with echocardiography. Blood tests help to determine the cause. Treatment depends on severity and cause of heart failure. In a chronic patient already in a stable situation, treatment commonly consists of lifestyle measures such as smoking cessation, light exercise, dietary changes and medications. Sometimes, depending on etiology, it is treated with implanted devices (pacemakers or ventricular assist devices), and occasionally a heart transplant is required.

Common causes of heart failure include myocardial infarction and other forms of ischemic heart disease, hypertension, valvular heart disease and cardiomyopathy. The term heart failure is sometimes incorrectly used for other cardiac-related illnesses, such as myocardial infarction (heart attack) or cardiac arrest, which can cause heart failure but are not equivalent to heart failure.

Heart failure is a common, costly, disabling and potentially deadly condition. In developed countries, around 2% of adults suffer from heart failure, but in those over the age of 65, this increases to 6%–10%.

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