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What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Basically, the heart can’t keep up with its workload. Congestive heart failure is a type of heart failure that requires seeking timely medical attention, although sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably.

Your body depends on the heart’s pumping action to deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body’s cells. When the cells are nourished properly, the body can function normally. With heart failure, the weakened heart can’t supply the cells with enough blood, resulting in fatigue and shortness of breath. Everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries can become very difficult.

Doctor and patient

Fast Facts

  • Of all adults 40 and older, one in five Americans will develop heart failure in their lifetime.
  • More than 6 million Americans are living with heart failure and the number is predicted to rise by 46% over the next 15 years. That means nearly 8 million Americans are estimated to be living with heart failure by 2030.
Heart Attack

Risk Factors

Risk factors for heart failure include:

  • Age (adults 65+ are at increased risk)
  • History of heart attack
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heavy alcohol consumption over long periods
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of heart failure

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of heart failure can include:

  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Buildup of excess fluid in body tissues
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Confusion and impaired thinking

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