Understanding Heart Failure

Elderly man seeing doctorThe Hopeful Heart Trial is examining new ways to improve your quality of life after heart failure. In order to more effectively treat and manage your condition, it is important for you to become an "empowered patient" by understanding what heart failure means to you.

What are the signs and symptoms of heart failure?

  • Chest Pain*
  • Racing Heartbeat*
  • Dizziness*
  • Shortness of Breath or Trouble Breathing*
  • Bloating/Water Retention
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive Urination
  • Swollen Feet
  • Swollen Legs
  • Weight Gain

*If you are experiencing these symptoms please call 911.

What does my heart do?

Your heart plays an essential role in the functioning of your body.

Your heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout your body. When blood travels throughout your body, it delivers oxygen and other vital nutrients, while also removing carbon dioxide and other wastes. Your body requires a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to live. Learn more about how the healthy heart works by visiting the American Heart Association website.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a chronic condition in which your heart cannot pump enough blood to meet your body's needs for blood and oxygen. The term "heart failure" means that your heart is either not pumping blood as well as it should be, or that your heart is not filling up with enough blood.

Learn more about heart failure by reading this information from the American Heart Association, and by watching the video below. You can also view this video by clicking here. For even more information about heart failure, please visit the Cleveland Clinic website.

What causes heart failure?

Heart failure can be caused by many conditions that damage heart muscle, including coronary heart disease (CHD), high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart valve disease. Read more about conditions that cause heart failure by clicking here.

Why didn’t you notice any symptoms until recently?

At first, your heart may try to make up for its inability to pump enough blood, which is why you may not notice that heart failure is developing. According to the American Heart Association, coping mechanisms include the following:

  • Increasing in size so that your heart can pump more blood.
  • Developing more muscle mass so that your heart can pump more strongly.
  • Pumping faster

How is heart failure diagnosed?

Heart failure is diagnosed by your physician in the following ways:

  • Medical and Family History
  • Physical Exam: Your doctor may listen to your heart for sounds that aren’t normal, listen to your lungs for the sounds of extra fluid buildup, and look for swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, and abdomen.
  • Diagnostic Exams: Your doctor may diagnose heart failure with the help of several tests, including an EKG (Electrocardiogram), Chest X Ray, BNP Blood Test, and Echocardiogram. You can read more about these diagnostic tests here.